- Bob Probert -
I know Bob Probert, not in the literary sense, but in the hockey world. He was big when I was a pre-teen and followed hockey religiously, even the fighting side. Bob Probert was the ultimate enforcer of the time. Which is why I was a bit surprised to see his name on this book, as the author. Then I saw the fine print, with help from Kristie McLelland Day. Then I though, what kind of story would Bob have to tell. A few fisticuffs tales? Then I remembered, the off ice antics; the suspensions for drugs, the car accidents...maybe there was a bit more of a story here? And, with all the hype recently about the problems these enforcers face (drugs, suicide, brain damage, etc) I thought I'd give the book a try.
Tough Guy was tough - a tough read. The way the book is written feels like a direct transcript from an interview Bob is giving. I'll remind you, Bob was a high school drop out who made his NHL career by punching people out and getting a few whacks to the head himself (every few days for a decade!), hence, the narrative was a little unfocused at times. However, the overall story made up for it.
The book is a chronological account of Bob's life focusing on his hockey career. It starts out sounding like a typical hockey star's beginning - success in the early years, drafted into a junior club, drafted by an NHL team. There was not much difference with Bob, only he was always bigger than the other kids and used his long arms to his advantage in a fight. That, along with some good hands (he put up some pretty good points) made him catch the scout's eye.
Off ice, he was not as successful in school, and liked to party...a lot. He dropped out of high school, not that he attended much anyway, and spent his time playing hockey and drinking with buddies. That's pretty much how he spends the next twenty years of his life.
The main chunk of the book are stories of incidents Bob has with drugs and drinking. Things like, car accidents while drunk driving, the use of drugs, the suspensions from hockey for drug use, the countless rehab visits, and a few of the sober moments. The hockey stories take a backseat. He recounts the many players he was teammates with (mostly the ones he partied with), the successes he had in the peak years, and a few of the more interesting fights he had.
He ends it with the last part of his life, where he has sobered up and put time and effort into his family.
It was like a journey back to the 'glory years' for both Bob and me. He played at a time where I knew all the players. So, his name dropping was like candy to me - Yzerman, Gilmour, Gretzky, Federov...
The game has changed dramatically since then. Fighting is not as encouraged now as it used to be. Drug use now is almost unheard of and those that do get some major 'help'. Probert comments on the players now, how they are so much faster and bigger. There would be little chance of someone with mediocre talent, even with some big fists, to make it into the league today. It was interesting to get a behind the scenes look into this game...I wonder if they still party as hard now as they used to.