NHL heavyweight champion
By Brendan Savage | firstname.lastname@example.org
We set out to find the best of Bob Probert's NHL fights and while we obviously couldn't find video of every one during his NHL career – there were 246 in 16 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks – we found a lot of them. And remember, those 246 don't include preseason fights (although we included a couple) or junior hockey fights.
Probert was generally considered the undisputed heavyweight champion of the NHL for much of his career and young tough guys entering the NHL usually wanted to drop the gloves with Probert, who more often than not obliged even if he wasn’t in the mood to fight.
Name an NHL tough guy who suited up from 1985-86 to 2001-02 and he almost certainly fought Probert. It’s a big reason Probert led the NHL with 398 penalty minutes in 1987-88, recorded at least 200 in a season nine times and finished his career with a total of 3,300. He’s fifth on the NHL's all-time list in total PIM and his 398 are the sixth-most in one season.
Stu Grimson was Probert's most frequent opponent as they fought 13 times. Other notable combatants included Tie Domi (9), Donald Brashear (8), Craig Berube (6), Todd Ewen (5), Troy Crowder (4), Marty McSorley (4). Joe Kocur (2), Brendan Shananan (1) and Darren McCarty (1). Probert fought Shanahan and McCarty in the same game Dec. 12, 1996 and dropped the gloves with Kocur when Kocur played for the Rangers and Red Wings.
Probert’s autobiography, “Tough Guy: My Life On The Edge,” says he had 246 NHL fights including the postseason but the popular website hockeyfights.com says he’s only had 239. Either way, that’s a lot of punches. According to Probert’s book, his first fight was against Vancouver’s Craig Coxe on Nov. 11, 1985 and his last was Feb. 13, 2002 against Florida’s Brad Norton.
Probert, a native of Windsor, died of a heart attack on July 5, 2010 at age 45 after collapsing on his boat. His widow, Dani, spread some of Probert's ashes in the penalty box at Joe Louis Arena after the final NHL game in the building's history last season.
The first one
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Probert's debut as an NHL fighter came when he was a rookie on Nov. 11, 1985 in Vancouver. The quality of the video isn't very good but the fight was a great one. It was the first of two fights between Probert and the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Craig Coxe.
Probert vs. Joe Kocur
Probert and Joe Kocur terrorized opponents when they were Red Wings teammates known as The Bruise Brothers. They fought for the first time on Dec. 17, 1993, when Kocur was playing for the Rangers and came to aid of teammate Esa Tikkanen after Probert knocked him to the ice. Probert believed Tikkanen had knocked Detroit's Keith Primeau to the ice (TV analyst Mickey Redmond thought so, too) but it was the linesman who helped send Primeau tumbling when he gave him a push on the arm at Joe Louis Arena.
Probert-Tie Domi No. 1
Tie Domi was in his second NHL season when he fought Probert for the first time. By the time it was over, Domi was declaring himself the NHL's new heavyweight champion as he skated to the penalty box while Probert was left bloodied. The fight sparked two others at 9:37 of the first period as the Red Wings and Rangers played to a 5-5 tie Feb. 9, 1992 at Madison Square Garden.
Bob McGill goes down ... twice
The video lists this as the sixth bout between Bob McGill and Probert but Probert's autobiography says they only fought five times. This one is from Nov. 29, 1990 and it was the last time they fought, which is no surprise given the quick beating McGill received. Probert sent him tumbling to the ice once and McGill got back up only to take a huge right to the head and go down again. Analyst Mickey Redmond told the TV audience "That's as big a victory as you're going to see on the road" before expressing concerns for McGill's well-being.
Down goes Parker
Colorado's Scott Parker made a bad decision when he dropped the gloves with Probert on Jan. 12, 1999. Parker never landed a punch while Probert, who was playing for the Blackhawks, connected with five straight rights, the fourth dropping Parker to the ice. It was the only time they fought.
The rematch between the Bruise Brothers is from Jan. 5, 1997, when Probert was playing for the Blackhawks and Joe Kocur was back with the Red Wings. The fight was ruled a draw by 51.5 percent of the people who judged it on hockeyfights.com. It was the second and final fight between the two former teammates, who were among the biggest punchers the NHL has ever seen.
Domi gets KO'ed
Anyone who likes fights is going to love this one between two of the NHL's premier heavyweights. Both threw haymakers throughout the bout, which lasted about 45 seconds and featured non-stop action before Probert finally sent Tie Domi tumbling to the ice with a big right hand.
Probert, who has lost their previous fight one season earlier, goaded Domi into dropping the gloves on Dec. 2, 1992 at Madison Square Garden. When it was over, Domi played to the crowd as if he won while Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman mocked him from the bench, acting as if he were putting on a heavyweight championship belt. Good stuff indeed.
No. 1 vs. Marty McSorley
This was the first fight between Marty McSorley and Probert, who broke Joe Kocur's club record for penalty minutes by running his season total to 379 with the major penalty from this bout. The March 22, 1988 fight lasted about 1 minute, 10 seconds before the officials finally separated the pair. "What a fight between two tough customers," said Red Wings TV analyst Mickey Redmond. "You will not see a couple of guys fight any better than that right there." Probert led the NHL with 398 PIM that season.
Round 2 vs. Craig Coxe
Probert and Craig Coxe fought for the second time on Nov. 19, 1987 in Detroit and it was a good one. They went toe-to-toe for almost 45 seconds with Probert landing several big punches before finally ending it with a big right. Probert threw nothing but rights in the fight while Coxe delivered punches with both hands.
This was the first of four bouts between Probert and Troy Crowder. It happened on Oct. 4, 1990 and was really no contest after Crowder pulled Probert's jersey over his head, covering Probert's face and leaving it bloodied as he left the ice.
Probert-Grimson: The Beginning
Stu Grimson, who ended up playing parts of three seasons with the Red Wings, fought Probert more than any other NHL player. This was the first of their 13 bouts and it came on Dec. 31, 1990.
First of two in one game vs. Crowder
Almost three months after they fought in the season opener, Probert got his revenge by scoring a TKO on Jan. 28, 1991 in the first of two fights that night. Probert sent Troy Crowder's helmet flying with one big right and then ended it with two more that sent Crowder falling to the ice.
The Crowder rematch
Probert and Troy Crowder fought twice on Jan. 28, 1991, both in the second period of New Jersey's 6-2 win at Joe Louis Arena. The first bout took place at 4:39 and this one unfolded at 11:56. Crowder once again pulled Probert's jersey over his head but this time Probert was able to get his arms free and eventually fought back although he absorbed some big blows. The fight started when Probert was jumped by Crowder, who received an instigating minor and game misconduct. Otherwise they might have dropped the gloves a third time.
Probert took some early blows and wasn't able to use his left hand after undergoing surgery on his arm that season. But when it got his right hand free in this April, 15, 1998 bout, Tie Domi was all done.
This was the final chapter in the Probert-Troy Crowder bouts. Probert was with the Blackhawks and Crowder was playing for Vancouver when they fought for the fourth and final time on Jan. 22, 1997. While they were throwing haymakers, Chicago's Jim Cummins was fighting Donald Brashear at the same time, giving fans a 2-for-1 special.
Probert vs. Allan Stewart
This was the only time Probert fought Allan Stewart, who played just 64 NHL games over six years. Based on the way this one went on Oct. 4, 1990, it's no wonder Stewart didn't tangle with Probert again.
Marathon with McSorley
Anyone who likes hockey fights is going to love this one. There's no official record for the longest fights in NHL history but this one from Feb. 4, 1994 has to rank at or near the top. It clocks in at about 1 minute, 40 seconds and when it was over Marty McSorley had a cut above his left eye.
Probert vs. Michel Petit
Michel Petit did his best impersonation of a human punching bag in this one from March 10, 1987 but he did land some nice shots himself. Perhaps the most impressive part of this bout is both went down to the ice together (twice) only to get back and resume the fight.
Probert vs. Eric Boulton
The left side of Eric Boulton's head might still bear knuckle marks from all the blows he absorbed in this preseason bout from Sept. 20, 2000. Probert ended up on his back when it was over but it appears as if he lost his balance before falling.
Probert vs. Mel Angelstad
Colorful Mel Angelstad was a bit of a minor-league legend who topped 300 PIM six times and hit the 400 mark twice. He only played two NHL games but when he got a shot at Probert in a preseason game Sept. 13, 1999, he wasn't about the pass up the opportunity even if he did absorb some big blows near the end.
Probert vs. Darren McCarty
This one from Dec. 12, 1996 wasn't much of a fight but how can we leave out one that featured two of the most famous fighters in Red Wings history, guys who were teammates for one season in Detroit during Darren McCarty's rookie year?
Quickest KO ever?
Michel Petit took a cheap shot at Steve Yzerman and Probert made him pay for it on Jan. 13, 1988. After Petit hit a defenseless Yzerman into the boards behind the net, Probert dropped the gloves and then dropped Petit with two punches in a fight that lasted about two seconds.
Probert vs. Brendan Shanahan
Brendan Shanahan was not only one of the greatest scorers in NHL history with 656 career goals, he was also a tough customer who finished with 2,489 PIM. His only fight with Probert came on Dec. 12, 1996, the same night Probert fought Darren McCarty.
Defending Steve Yzerman
This was a crazy scene from Buffalo's 5-2 win with 2:26 left on Dec. 23, 1987. Kevin McGuire leveled Red Wings goalie Greg Stefan behind the net and all heck broke loose, resulting in seven fighting majors and seven game misconducts. Probert got involved after Steve Yzerman fought McGuire.
Bloodied by Andrei Mazarov
Probert won far more fights than he lost but this wasn't one of them as Boston's Andrei Nazarov left him a bloody mess on Oct. 28, 2001 in Chicago. Probert's pugilistic skills started to slip as he got older and he was in his final NHL season at age 35 when he tangled with the 6-foot-5, 242-pound Nazarov. When it was over, Nazarov's face and jersey were covered in blood belonging to Probert. It the only time Probert fought Nazarov, who was 26 at the time.
The last one
The final fight of Probert's NHL career came on Feb. 13, 2002 against Florida rookie Brad Norton. Earlier in that game, Probert fought Petre Worrell. After tangling with Norton and Worrell, Probert played nine more NHL games without fighting again.
Three goals in three games
Back when the Red Wings held training camp at Flint's IMA Sports Arena, an irate Probert went looking for a local columnist who had called him a "goon" in print. (He never found the writer.) Probert was a lot of things but he certainly wasn't a goon who did nothing but fight. He scored 163 goals among 384 points in 985 NHL games and scored 29 goals in 1987-88 while being named to the All-Star team. That was the same season he led the NHL with 398 PIM. Talk about a dual threat. Probert also scored 16 goals in 81 playoff games, including eight goals in 16 games in 1988.
Penalty shot goal
Bob Probert with a penalty shot? Yup, it not only happened but he actually scored, too. Probert walked Mickey Redmond through the shot a couple of days later. (Check out how young Redmond looks in the clip!)
Joe Kocur remembers his Bruise Brother
Probert died on July 5, 2010 after suffering a massive heart attack while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair. He battled alcohol and drug problems for much of his adult life before dying at age 45. Probert spent three months in Federal prison after being arrested in 1989 for possession of cocaine at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, leaving his NHL future in doubt. But he ended up playing another 11 seasons. Joe Kocur, his former teammate with the Red Wings, remembered Probert one day after his death.
Chris Chelios at Probert Memorial Ride
Probert's widow, Dani, organized a memorial motorcycle ride in 2011 to honor her late husband and Chris Chelios spoke about Red Wings legendary enforcer. Bikers rode through the streets of Detroit, across the Ambassador Bridge and into Probert's hometown of Windsor to raise money for heart disease research.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and Stu Grimson wer among those who shared memories of Probert when a parade of motorcycles led the casket carrying Probert's remains to the cemetery. The casket rode on a motorcycle sidecar that featured the words "forever free" on the front.
Probert on Probert
Probert, who spent nine of his 16 NHL seasons with the Red Wings, shared some of his career memories that included wanting to be a star player like Bobby Orr, what it was like to be a fighter in the NHL, being an aging enforcer and the time former Red Wings defenseman Colin Campbell foolishly challenged him to a boxing match.
Red Wings moving foward
Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, expressed confidence in GM Ken Holland as the Red Wings move forward after missing the playoffs this year for the first time in 26 seasons. But fans aren't as confident in Holland, who showed his support for coach Jeff Blashill by announcing Blashill will return for a third season behind Detroit's bench when the club moves into Little Caesars Arena this fall.
Photo by Mike Mulholland | MLive.com