Robert "Bob" Alan Probert was born in Windsor, Ontario in June of 1965. His father was a cop.
But that, sadly, is about the most significant thing that can be said for him on that side of the law.
In 2010, his biography was published posthumously by HarperCollins of Toronto (Bob Probert died of a massive heart attack on July 5, 2010).
The decision to publish his diary was made by his widow, Dani Probert. Consider that decision in light of the legacy of publicity now given in regards to the crimes committed by Mr. Probert, a hockey legend to many.
But here's more: there is no remorse in the autobiography and instead, on more than a few occasions, he blames his long rap sheet on childhood attention-deficit disorder and, later, alcoholism.
The fact that Mrs. Probert would publish, rather than burn, or at least hide for a few decades, her husband’s tell-all diary boggles the mind especially as the four Probert children are still under the age of majority. Not only must their friends all have access, now, to the family’s darkest secrets, but countless of other Canadian children who play hockey and who glorify National Hockey League players may now think it cool to consume cocaine and mushrooms; to commit adultery with impunity; to mock the genuine efforts of others to help them, and to celebrate a criminal record, time in jail and successful efforts to avoid law enforcement as badges of honor.
The oddities of Mrs. Probert’s decisions are elsewhere apparent in the book. For example, in the introduction, there is a reference to information that she must have offered to the ghost writer. Apparently, as an emergency defibrillator was being applied to her husband’s almost lifeless body, her mind turned to when they had last had sex! Right there, in the book, at that time, is this:
“She tried to remember the last time she and Bob had made love.”
It is also a stunning warning to the reader that when it comes to TMI (too much information), this book is second to none, although Theo Fleury's book comes to mind.
This "hero"’s life starts with an account of his teenage leadership in producing fake identification cards for his minor hockey teammates, so they could:
“... buy as much booze as we wanted … and go to all the bars. I was 17 and … I just liked to always be stoned or drunk.... I never cracked a book (at school)...
"By the time I was 18, I was drinking 12 beers a night, but I could go to 16 without passing out....
"It was cool."
In 1983, Bob Probert, juvenile delinquent and proud of it, was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings but was returned to his junior team for seasoning. There, he joyfully recounts having adulterous sex with his landlady.
He got another girl pregnant “but I wanted to do the right thing”: he arranged for a friend to drive the girlfriend to her abortion appointment.
By 1986, Probert suited up for Detroit's farm team, the Adirondack Red Wings. In the playoffs, he blindsided the opposing goalie Frank Caprice, the assault so violent that Caprice was taken out on a stretcher. Probert relishes in his telling of the story and while there is no remorse, he admonishes Caprice’s teammates for not retaliating.
His season ended when the minor league suspended him for the hit and Probert returned to Windsor and started his rap sheet with a first drunk driving conviction.
At the same time, he takes cocaine for the first time. Imagine his childrens' minds as they have to decide for themselves to partake or reject drugs offered to them at their first teenage party:
“It was an instant love. Oh yeah... I felt like Superman. Wow! This is awesome.... Cocaine was magic.”
Again, in the summer of 1986, Probert was arrested for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. The Red Wings sent him to rehab where he recounts how he “did it" with another patient. He coyly suggests that she was a celebrity but does not give his sexual partner and fellow rehab patient’s name. For those with access to Google, the research facts are:
“She was married to a guy whose parents were rich in the sports world. I read about their divorce in the paper the next year. It was a big scandal in the States. They had a terrible custody battle....”
So much for confidentiality.
When Prober left rehab, he writes that he intentionally started a campaign of public contrition because:
“I thought having this kind of stuff on the record would be helpful in my future court dates.”
In October, 1986, he received a 2-year probation sentence for the assault charge, one in which the judge offered to erase his criminal record if he abstained from alcohol for that period. Two months later, he was shooting schnapps and was “completely wasted”. He later blew .17 (the legal limit was .08) when he risked the life of every driver between him and the concrete utility pole he ultimately crashed into. He then tried to escape from the hospital before the police officers could follow-up on his drunk driving. But he was nabbed and charged.
The Red Wings, again, rather than release him outright, suspended him.
He was now facing two DUIs charges and was convicted on one but acquitted of the other. In 1987, he entered addiction rehab again but was “kicked out for breaking the rules”.
One of his most extraordinary stories is an incident which he does not date but which appears to have occurred in 1988. Probert writes that the event was orchestrated by his then-assistant coach Colin Campbell. Some unnamed judge, Canadian or American, gave Probert a private in-camera hearing and accept a 1-day jail term in exchange, presumably, for Probert’s guilty plea to breach of probation.
Colin Campbell is now (2011) the NHL’s vice-president, discipline.
Probert confesses to “buying cocaine by the ounce - twenty eight grams for $800 a week...."
Another rehab stint followed but “I only lasted a week”.
At this point, his new father-in-law makes him an offer. Dani Probert's father “Jim”, apparently offered to take Bob to Bolivia where they could “do the best (cocaine) of the best”.
In March of 1989, even though his wife Dani was with him, Probert stuffed cocaine down his underwear and headed for the US-Canada border where he was pulled over by American custom agents. According to Probert's account, which was authorized for publication by his wife, she knew he was drunk; indeed, she had insisted on driving to him to a bar in the first place because of his state.
Still, drunk though he was, there she is in the passenger seat with Probert behind the wheel, as the vehicle approaches American customs. In full view of his wife and as she reaches over him to grab the steering wheel, he stashes 14 grams of cocaine down his underwear.
Customs officials also found empty beer and liquor bottles in the car. In his ragtale, he tells the story with pride, noting in the end that he almost got away with it.
But he didn’t.
The NHL suspended him immediately.
At trial, Probert pleaded guilty to a charge of importing cocaine. In October of 1989, he received a meager 6-month jail term by Judge Patrick Duggan, 3 months in jail and 3-months in a halfway house. But his new and improved criminal record elevates him to the status of aggravated felon, a classification which also includes murderers and drug traffickers.
How do the Red Wings respond? According to Probert, the team hired a private jet to whisk Probert to his jail in Minnesota. He becomes federal inmate #12211-309 and the company he then keeps include the infamous ex-evangelist Jimmy Bakker, and “Billy Giacalone” who Probert describes as “really cool”.
Once released, the Americans wisely order him deported to Canada, which would end his hockey career.
Probert's legal team seem to be second to none. First, at a quiet hearing in March of 1990, the then-league president John Ziegler reinstated Probert.
Probert recounts that at this time, Sheldon Kennedy became his teammate and good friend. Probert adds that he introduced Kennedy to cocaine in December of 1990.
But the American immigration authorities wanted him out of the USA, hockey player or not. Probert’s lawyer argued that his client had a psychiatric condition: attention deficit disorder. That bought the enforcer some time but he still wasn’t allowed to leave the USA.
In 1992, his immigration restrictions were lifted by the American judiciary.
Probert describes his July 1993 wedding night as a celebration of cocaine-use. But by July 1994, and with his wife very pregnant, he was back driving a motorcycle while high on cocaine. He hit another vehicle and wound up in hospital where blood tests showed strong traces of cocaine.
The NHL suspended him indefinitely (again) and his first child Brogan, was born two weeks later.
In Court, Probert was given a three-day jail term for impaired driving.
Incredibly, a year later, the NHL reinstated him, again.
Probert then seems to have a decade of peace. His wife gave birth to twins on May 2, 2000 (Declyn and Jack) and then to another daughter, Tierney in July of 1997.
He Wanted the Kids to Know.
In an October 2010 interview with the Globe & Mail, Probert's widow defended her husband's tell-all diary:
"He wanted the kids to know."
To know what?
In 2002, with his wife home and caring for four young children, our hero writes of Las Vegas and yet another relapse and adultery:
“...with a hooker. Cocaine makes you hornier than a three-peckered billy goat.”
His new team, the Chicago Black Hawks released him in November. His NHL career was mercifully over (he finished fifth on the NHL's all-time list for most career penalty minutes) but not the criminal lifestyle. He describes his first seven years of retirement as an active hockey player:
“... I hit on chicks - I was loaded, usually on booze and cocaine.”
In June of 2004, he re-entered rehab but was soon arrested while trying to buy cocaine.
A year later, Windsor police responded to an 8 a.m., 911 call from the Probert home, as an all-night party was in full swing. Hockey's enforcer was cuffed, hauled down to the station and charged with assault (the charged was later withdrawn).
But a month later, Probert was again caught disturbing the peace and with cocaine in his possession.
One most astonishing sequels to this life-lived, other than the children he supported and loved, and his several well-intentioned charities - is the decision by Canadian Armed Forces in 2007 to ask Mr. Probert, of all retired NHL players, to carry the Stanley Cup to support the troops in Afghanistan. Then, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation picked him to participate in a skating reality show.
Bob Probert died of a massive heart attack even as he diarized his daily addiction to and abuse of OxyContin. He would cheat on his prescriptions by going from pharmacy to pharmacy and bragged of taking “20 a day”, which he gulped down with several Coca-Colas.
Immediately after his sudden death, his written legacy of crime and contempt for law and justice, was published as a matter of choice by his widow.
But even she wants the world to think that he was just a victim of circumstances; that his troubles with the law weren't all of his making. She told Canada's national newspaper: “Things happened. He just wanted to be able to tell his side of what happened.”
Other than those who are blind to the reality of this hockey hero's moral backbone, Bob Probert’s final message is a disappointing take-no-responsibility, coke-loving diary now left open not only for his young children to absorb but also for other young hockey players to read and consider as a path successfully-beaten to hockey glory and NHL money.
A widow and a publishing company, for a few bucks, have come together to deliver to young men, many of whom may themselves grow up to be role models, with this unrepentant, proud account of a law-breaker's life.
Meanwhile, a beautiful sport is stained.
- Davidi, Shi, Probert book reveals life of sex and drugs, Globe and Mail, Oct. 22, 2010
- McLellan Day, K., Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge (Toronto: HarperCollins Ltd., 2010)
- Probert v. INS, 954 F. 2d 1253 (1992)
- Probert v. USINS, 750 F. Supp. 252 (1990)
- US v. Probert, 737 F. Supp. 1010 (1989)
- Zavradinos v. JTRB INC., 753 NW 2d 60 (2008)