Bob Probert was considered the undisputed heavyweight champion of the NHL for almost all of his career. He fought 246 times in the NHL, and those don’t include preseason fights or junior hockey fights.
It’s not many in league history who have fought more times than Probert, and none have been better at it. From 1985 to 2000, every young tough guy coming into the NHL wanted a piece of Bob Probert, and even though he wasn’t in the mood for it every time, he often obliged.
Probert led the NHL in penalty minutes with 398 in 1987-88, and he ranks fifth on the NHL’s all-time list in total PIM. He had more than 200 penalty minutes nine times, and he was a complete nightmare to play against. Probert was a huge guy, and his technique made him nearly impossible to win against in a fight.
But, Bob Probert was a nightmare to deal with for penalty box attendants as well. Probert spent a lot of time in the penalty boxes around the NHL, and one of the attendants decided to write a book about what he saw during his years.
In the book, ‘In the Bin: Reckless & Rude Stories from the Penalty Boxes of the NHL,’ Lloyd Freeberg reveals a great story about how Probert wanted to steal some pucks, but it didn’t go to plan.
“It was late in the game when Probert picked up a fighting major for using an opponent as a speed bag. We were soon joined by Ray Sheppard, who was assessed a minor penalty with just three minutes left in the game,” wrote Freeberg.
“As I stood at the other end of the bench monitoring the penalty clock, I soon became aware of the two of them arguing.”
Probert and Sheppard were arguing about who should take the opening night commemorative game pucks.
It was Probert’s idea, but he said he couldn’t do it.
“He was trying to find a way to sneak the pucks from the penalty box to the players’ bench on the other side of the rink, and Sheppard was being of little help. ‘I can’t take them. I’ve got to go back on the ice before you. Just stick them in your gloves.’ But Probert kept insisting: ‘They won’t all fit, man, and I’ve got no other place to put them.'”
Then, all of a sudden, Freeberg decided to join the conversation. And it’s worth noticing; this was his first official game.
“For a reason I will likely never be able to explain or understand, I suddenly blurted out, ‘Hey, Probe, why don’t you just shove them down your pants?’ No sooner had these words been spoken when Probert turned to me with a look on his face that was a frightening mixture of surprise and anger. This was the same look I’m sure many of his sparring partners had seen right before the gloves came off and the lights went out.”
Freeberg thought he was done, that Probert would seriously harm him, and that he would become the first off-ice official ‘mauled in the line of duty.’ But then, everything changed.
“Sheppard began to laugh, an infectious laugh that continued until, to my immeasurable relief, Probert began laughing as well. Thankfully, the penalties expired, and both players, still chuckling, left the box to rejoin the game.”