Occasionally, I come across a book
that I would heartily recommend to a selected audience. The book in this case
is, “Tough Guy”. It is the story about Bob Probert, as told by Kirstie McLellan
Day. I would intend to place this book in the hands of every athlete who
intends to move from junior ranks to become a pro. The book is written about a
hockey player, and a good one, mind you. But a hockey player who lived on the
fringe, and did not realize that he was completely out of control, until it was
too late. The book should be given to all potential athletes, no matter what
the sport may be.
On the cover of the book, there is a
quote from the Ottawa Citizen: “Funny
as hell”. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a book about a very
tragic figure who made globs of money playing the game that most young Canadians
would love to play. Probert began to spin out of control almost as soon as he
strapped on his blades professionally. He was born June 5, 1965, and died,
tragically, when he was forty years old in 2005.
We remember “Probie” as a fighter,
and justifiably so. There are eleven pages at the back of the book, listing all
of his NHL fights. They begin with a scrap against Craig Coxe, once a
Belleville Bull. A fan favourite, I might add. Coxe stood six inches over six
feet tall, and was a lanky lad when he first stepped onto the ice at the
He feared no one, and did not back
away from any scrap. I distinctly remember a game when he strolled around the
ice, looking for a potential customer after wrestling with a couple of guys.
The Kitchener bench was furious with him. They taunted him, cursed at him. He
took three strides from centre ice and dove, spread-eagled into the crowd at the bench. A
heap of fur flew before they could untangle Mr. Coxe from the mess.
The list of Probert’s combatants is
long and distinguished, and includes all of the tough guys from his era: Tony
Twist, Donald Brashear, Georges Laraque, Tie Domi, Sandy McCarthy, Bryan
Marchment, Stu Grimson, Al Secord, Troy Crowder, Marty McSorley, Chris Nilan...
A Windsor kid, many of his legal
difficulties stemmed from his border crossings. He played much of his career in
Detroit, but also spent seven seasons with the Black Hawks. His days with the
Red Wings were his most memorable, and his most successful. On two occasions,
he scored 20 goals. He racked up 62 points in 1987-1988, and also had 398
minutes in the penalty box that same year, the most he ever spent in the sin
During his stint in Detroit, he
played with Joey Kocur and Darren McCarty. They were certainly well respected
on the ice, feared, in fact, by many. Probert and McCarty both went down many
wrong paths as the years progressed. Probert was suspended for a year 1n 1994,
and had worn out his welcome in Detroit. He latched on with the Hawks, had one
good season. He did not score in double figures in his last six seasons with
I am certain that most of his life he
considered himself almost indestructible. On many occasions, he believed he was
above the law. He rewarded police officials with great tickets on the many
occasions when they arrested him. He was simply out of control most of the
time, and frustrated many of the team officials who knew he had the talent, but
knew that he could not live within the constraints of an NHL contract.
There will be other athletes that
will follow his path in the future. Hopefully, someone will be able to slip
them a copy of this book before they go completely off the rails.
Florida Gulf Coast University sports
fans keep a keen eye on their basketball teams. Both the men’s team and the
women’s team have been eliminated from post season play at this time. They are
now in the process of gearing up for next year.
The men’s baseball season is now in
full swing, if you will pardon that expression. They play at a wonderful
stadium beside the arena where the basketball games take place. Near the end of
the roundball season, the university decided to pay its respect to the best
baseball player ever to wear an FGCU uniform. His name is Chris Sale, and he
now toils for the Chicago White Sox.
Sale was humbled by the experience.
He was introduced, at centre court, with his wife and child, and his parents.
His # 41 jersey was retired by the school, the first to receive the honour. He
was genuinely moved by the event. “Everybody up here has done something to help
me get where I am. I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. It’s an incredible
honour. It’s very humbling.”
He was signed by the White Sox in
2010, and was their first round draft pick. Since that time, he has won 44
games, and lost 29. He has a very respectable earned run average of 2.76, and
was third in voting for the Cy Young Award last year. He has been an All Star
the past three seasons, and earned the victory in the All Star game last year.
His coach at FGCU did not mince words
when talking about Sale. “He is the best player I’ve ever coached. As good a
player he is, he is a better man and a better person. When he came here, I
really didn’t know what to expect. He was a string bean of a guy, standing at
6’ 6”, and not much meat on his bones.”
In early March, Sale had a freak
accident while unloading stuff from the back of his truck. At least that was
how the team described the situation. Sale had his own interpretation, very
tongue in cheek, as reported by the associated Press. “The intruder broke into
my house at night. So I hit him with a roundhouse, tied him up, and put him by
the curb.’ Asked if he was concerned about his foot, Sale carried on with a
straight face: “Well, yeah, by looking at the other guy’s head when I kicked
him, it didn’t look good”. A great fish tale!
considers this to be a minor setback. On March 27th, he threw a 75
pitch simulated game. He was expected to test lateral moves shortly thereafter,
likely on his birthday on March 30th. He is now 26 years old. He is
signed through 2017, and will make 32 million dollars in that period. He is
expected to be ready by April 12th, shortly after the Sox begin the
The Sox will be in Toronto May 25th,
26th, and 27th, for their only visit to the Rogers
Centre, and I look forward to those games. It will be a treat to see such a
fine young pitcher in action. He is one of only six players ever to play in the
Major Leagues the year that he was drafted. Perhaps he will get some of his
team mates to help him unload the truck when he gets to the Windy City.
April 5, 2015