There will never be someone like Bob Probert in the NHL again. The fighting icon was a great player and an all-time enforcer, being one half of the ‘Bruise Brothers’ with then-Red Wings teammate Joey Kocur in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Bob Probert played in an era where the NHL was filled with fighters, and every team needed a couple to keep their star players away from trouble or injuries. No one was better than Bob Probert in protecting his teammates, at least according to Don Cherry.
A couple of years ago, Don Cherry shared an absolutely incredible story about Bob Probert and the up-and-comer Troy Crowder.
”There is no doubt that in his prime Bob was the heavyweight champ of the NHL. Like the top gunslinger in the old west, every up-and-coming tough guy wanted a piece of Bob,” Cherry said in a Facebook post.
”Around 1988 I was in New Jersey watching a morning skate, and a young player came up to me and sat down. He was a monster, over 6’4″ 200 lbs and introduced himself. He said, ’Hello Grapes, my name is Troy Crowder, I play for Utica (the Devils’ AHL farm team), and I’m as tough as Probert.’ I said, ’Sure, you are kid.’ He said, ’You watch, I’m going to make the NHL, and I’ll beat Probert.’
Don Cherry didn’t believe it, but just a couple of years later, things had changed.
”Some two years later, Troy and Bob had three beauty fights. Troy had been waiting in the weeds for two years to fight Bob. That was the world he lived in, everybody wanted to make their mark by fighting Probert. It’s a tough row to hoe.”
In the first fight between them, Crowder stood up great and actually cut Bob. Weeks later, it was time for the rematch, and everyone wanted to watch it. The game wasn’t on television in Toronto, so Don Cherry and Ron MacLean decided to drive to Detroit—just to watch the fight.
And they weren’t the only ones eager to watch the two heavyweights go at it. Before the game, Don Cherry met with the referees, and what they said speaks volumes about how big things were.
”As we were walking into the building, I saw the ref and two linesmen in the hallway. I walked up to them and said, ’We drove all the way from Toronto to see these two guys go, when they drop the gloves you guys better not jump in and break it up.’ They said, ’Are you kidding? We’re looking forward to tonight too.’”
So what happened?
The heavyweight champion of the NHL defended his title.
”The crowd was electric, and all you saw were Detroit fans wearing Bob’s #24 sweaters. Well, Bob and Troy didn’t disappoint; they dropped the gloves not once but twice. Troy gave a good account of himself, but Bob easily won back the heavyweight title.”