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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SUMMER READING: Bob Probert's 'Tough Guy' every bit as wild as imagined

Steve Yzerman may be Red Wings royalty, but Bob Probert was a rock star. If you really needed any proof, his memoirs, "Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge," released shortly after his July 2010 death, cement every instance of excess -- and there are plenty -- with great detail.
Probert makes it clear the book was being accrued late in his life as a means for family and fans to discern truth from legend. And with Probert, a long-time Red Wings enforcer who was part of the rise from the so-called Dead Wings in the mid- to late-1980s, there were plenty of tales.
Fighting, drinking, drugs and second chances. Those, along with Probert's struggles with alcoholism, are the focus of the narrative.
There's no doubt Red Wings fans recall some of "Probie's" famous exploits: The DUIs, getting caught at the Detroit-Windsor border with cocaine, and the fights with Tie Domi. They're all there. I knew after I began reading excerpts of this book in the Detroit Free Press, that I would one day read "Tough Guy." Again, I'm not an avid book reader, but that may change.
The book begins recounting the last day of Probert's life, July 5, 2010, with painstaking detail. It's difficult not to feel for Probert's family, his children and wife Dani -- who should be commended for sticking with Probert through his well documented struggles.
The biography then delves into Probert's childhood and career in the minor leagues. But beyond the season-by-season recollection, what is most notable is the ease with which Probert was seemingly determined to throw away his promising career. (I was a child in Probert's heyday, somewhat immune from the headlines, so most of this is new to me, although I have always been aware of Probert's larger-than-life reputation.)
What fans didn't see through Probert's eight tumultuous nine seasons as the Red Wings' enforcer is the family he was building and ultimately trying to save when he ran out of time.
Probert died from coronary disease (there's now an annual motorcycle ride in his honor to support the cause) while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair just days after he and his wife celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary. He says he never thought he would make it to 40. He was 45 when he died.
This autobiographical indulgence is a must-read for any Red Wings fan of the Probert era. I couldn't set down the nearly 250-page life story of one of Detroit sports' often overlooked all-time stars. It's too bad no one has had the good sense to produce a Probert biopic film, at least at a regional level. There are very few names in hockey of those who haven't made the Hall of Fame or ever even hoisted the Stanley Cup which draw such reverence as Bob Probert.
(Recently, I reviewed "Three And Out," a book about Rich Rodriguez's tumultuous time at Michigan.)


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