The Windsor Star is reporting that Bob Probert has passed away at just 45 years of age today in Windsor, Ontario.
Probert was perhaps the NHL's greatest enforcer of the last 30-40 years, combining physical strength and courage with surprising talent. In the 1987-88 season, besides patrolling Steve Yzerman's wing and leading the league with 398 penalty minutes, he also scored 29 goals and added 33 assists, earning him a berth in the 1988 All-Star Game. At the same time, he was easily the most feared brawler in the league, and the "Bruise Brothers" era in Detroit when he teamed up with Joe Kocur featured some of the toughest teams of the 1980's and early 90's.
Probert's career stands as a stark counterpoint that is the absurdity of Derek Boogaard getting a 4-year, $6.5 million contract from the New York Rangers this summer as a free agent. Boogaard, in 255 career NHL games, has amassed a grand total of 2 goals and 12 assists. I've questioned recently whether the Nashville Predators need to carry an enforcer like Wade Belak on their roster, and part of my reasoning is that the current sluggers seem to lack any ability to affect the outcome of a game.
Bob Probert certainly could. RIP, Probie.