Somewhere in some lake I never heard of, yet it’s so vividly clear in my head. On a day that seems surreal anyway because it’s a Monday that feels like a Sunday. On a boat I can only imagine. As the sun blazed down on the decks of countless boats, one thing changed forever, in an instant.
Bob Proberts death sparked a lot more “who’s??” than “wow’s” when I started breaking the news. For some reason my friends and me have an ongoing game of breaking celebrity news death all the way back to pre Princess Di. The best one was the Michael Jackson is/isn’t, dead one. The saddest, I’m not sure. I’ll save that for another article as there were many.
My first exposure to hockey was electrifying. The Miracle on Ice. A 12 year old boy living on the tough streets of Cleveland’s inner city. Fighting, to me, was already a way of life. But I didn’t know it to be a part of hockey until the mid 80’s. As I grew up addicted to this game, I got to know more about it than anyone could imagine. If there was a hockey question on Jeopardy, I’d answer it, the contestants never did.
Hockey and fighting were like peas and carrots. Or my buddy Tom and V.D. Slapshot changed my life forever. No movie could really stand up to it. It was the perfect hockey movie. Perfectly cast, perfectly written, filmed and choreographed (the striptease). What a sport. Considering that I was raised a begrudged fighter (i had to fight to survive), it was ironic that I never threw a meaningful punch in hockey. I never had to. I always had a goon on my team to do it for me. I say goon with all the respect and admiration one could imagine. It was like being friends with a football player in high school or being a “Made Man” in the mafia. I was untouchable. Sure I took a couple of shots and had no problem getting in a guys face because I knew within seconds guys like Eric Burke or Dan Quinn would be jumping over me to get to them.
There’s no training to be a guy like this. It’s innate. Like it is for wives to hate their husbands no matter how good they are to them. Bob Probert was a man of men. The toughest of tough guys. He made others circle the date on the calender. I could only imagine the thoughts going through heads of the other teams “enforcers.” I’m sure it was something like “$%$^# me.” Who would stand up? Who would be victimized? Bob, you were in many ways, a hockey hero.
One fight he couldn’t win, is one I’m all to familiar with. It killed my father and is trying to kill me. But I’m winning. My father didn’t. In fact I’m making a film about it, “Dead Lenny.” Without ever knowing him, I’m certain that Bob was severely depressed and had significant mental issues. What caused them, we’ll probably never know. It’s nearly impossible to get “tough guys” to come to grips with these types of real and treatable diseases. Many geniuses die before getting help. Was Bob a genius? I say yes. What say you? I know hockey will never be the same without him.
Best to your family. NOTE: If anyone knows of charity to donate on his behalf please let me know.