Former NHL enforcer Probert pronounced dead Staff

7/6/2010 2:58:15 AM

Former NHL enforcer Bob Probert has died of an apparent heart attack after being rushed to hospital with vital signs absent after collapsing on a boat on Lake St. Clair in Windsor, Ontario on Monday.

Probert was 45 years old.

Probert's father-in-law, Dan Parkinson, said at a news conference Monday that Probert had complained about "severe chest pain" around 2 p.m. before collapsing.

"This is a tragedy for the family," said Parkinson. "We ask that you respect their privacy at this time. This was totally unexpected. Bob lost the fight of his life this afternoon."

An autopsy will be performed on Tuesday to determine the official cause of death.

Windsor radio station AM 800 CKLW first reported that emergency crews performed CPR on the former Red Wings and Blackhawks' forward and then transported him to Windsor Regional Hospital where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

"It's a shock. Our thoughts go out to the family, that's the big thing," said former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark, who was on the other end of several fights with Probert over the course of their careers. "(Probert) was one of the guys that started out as strictly a tough-guy and played himself into a player.

"He was one of your ultimate team guys," Clark said. "That's why he played and lasted as a tough guy for so many years. He was a teammate, a competitor. Everybody off the ice loved Bobby. That's what made his career what it was - because of the team person that he was."

Those sentiments were echoed by several NHL personalities who encountered Probert over the years.

“This is a very sad day for Red Wings fans as we have lost one of the toughest players, best power forwards and all-around great guys who ever wore the Winged Wheel.'' former Red Wing and teammate Joe Kocur said in a statement. ''My favourite memory of Bob would be sitting down before a game, going over the opposing lineup and picking and choosing who would go first and if the goalie would be safe or not.  It was great to be able to go out on the ice knowing that he had my back and I had his. He was like the brother I never had.  My prayers go out to his family.

"It's been tough. (Probert) was a great friend, a great brother, a great teammate, a great father and it's pretty stunning," Kocur said. "It's shaken up not only the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks but the whole hockey world.

"We did a lot of things together in our early years. We were roommates, teammates, partners on the ice, partners in pretty much everything," Kocur added. "You lose a part of the family when a day like this happens."

The Blackhawks issued a statement Monday evening.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Probert family during this difficult time," said Blackhawks president John McDonough. "Bob will always be a member of the Blackhawks family and his memory will live on through our fans."

Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch also issued a statement.

"Bob was a part of our very first NHL draft class that also included Steve Yzerman, Joe Kocur, Petr Klima and Stu Grimson. Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL. He also was one of the kindest, most colourful, and beloved players Detroit has ever known. We are very saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob's family."

One of the most feared fighters in the history of the NHL, the Windsor native scored 163 goals and added 221 assists and whopping 3,300 penalty minutes in 935 career NHL games. 

While Probert's bouts with the likes of Tie Domi and Marty McSorley were legendary, he was also an incredibly skilled player who played in the 1988 NHL All-Star game.  A star on the ice, Probert battled his demons off the ice, including well documented problems with the law as well as alcohol and substance abuse. He also spent time in an NHL-supervised substance abuse treatment center.

The Red Wings family were shocked by his passing.

"It's very sad, very, very sad," Red Wings vice president Jim Devellano told the Detroit Free Press. "He was a pretty popular player in Detroit in the '80s, and certainly one tough guy with a lot of ability. But unfortunately we never got 100% out of him because of his off ice problems."

"We did everything," Devellano said. "I don't think there was a player I ever worked harder on, tried harder on to get his off ice life turned around."

Probert is survived by his wife and four children.