When an opposing coach got a rookie to freak out ahead of his first-ever NHL game with just ten words about Bob Probert

When an opposing coach got a rookie to freak out ahead of his first-ever NHL game with just ten words about Bob Probert

Bob Probert was the heavyweight champion of the NHL during a time when hockey was way more violent than it is today. Probert was a menace who never backed down to anyone.

Talking to former NHL fighters, everyone says Probert was the toughest. He was a nightmare to come up against and just such a great fighter.

And it was every young fighter’s dream to fight him because that was their shot at making a new for themself.

That was the case for Steve Seftel as well. Seftel, author of the book ‘Shattered Ice,’ only played four games in the NHL.

When he played with Baltimore, in Washington’s AHL affiliate, he had Bryan Murray and Doug MacLean as his coaches.

The following year, the two coaches ended up in Detroit.

“So, January of ’91 I get the call that I’m going up to Washington for my first NHL game, it’s in Detroit at the Joe Louis Arena, so we’re on the road. It was very exciting and what are the odds, my first NHL game is against my old coaches, Bryan Murray and Doug MacLean,” said Seftel to hockeyembassy.wordpress.com.

“I’m nervous, as you can expect. I mention in the book that when I went out for warmups, I thought I was skating on ski moguls, it felt like I was going over little bumps on the ice. I remember trying to gather my thoughts, saying ‘come on, this is a regular sheet of ice, no different than any one you’ve been on before.’”

1994: Bob Probert #24 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on before an NHL game circa 1994. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

To ease his nervousness, he skated by his former coach to talk to him a bit. Doug MacLean was watching warmups from the Detroit bench when Seftel came skating.

”He helped develop me and get me to this point. He had a big part in that last year, so I do a lap, I go across the center red-line and I’m heading right for him on the Detroit bench, and as I get a few feet away we make eye contact and I get ready to say something, but I realize he’s going to say something first. I think he’s going to say something like ‘good for you Sef, have a great game tonight kid.’ No, he says: ’Hey Sef, I told [Bob] Probert you’re the goon called up from Baltimore.’

“I kept skating, I did a double take as I’m skating and just couldn’t believe it. My mind was scrambling, I’m thinking ‘okay, he’s playing head games, it’s not true.’”

Source: Getty Images

Seftel ended up starting the game, and he quickly found out he was up against Bob Probert.

“I know he’s a right winger, and I know I’m a left winger and we will be standing beside each other in a matter of seconds. And I’m thinking maybe Doug did tell him that I’m the goon from Baltimore. Well, this is it, this is going to happen. So I don’t know where it’s going to go, sure enough we’re lined up shoulder to shoulder, the puck gets dropped, it gets fired into our zone, and it comes ripping around my boards. I look up ice and see he’s coming in, and I’m thinking this is it, I’m going to find out right here, he’s either going to drill me into the boards or put a glove through my nose or something like that. But actually there’s nothing, we just end up glancing shoulder to shoulder.”

Source: Getty Images

Seftel never fought Bob Probert, but he for sure thought he was going to. And all thanks to a former coach’s hilarious joke.

“I found out later, reading Bob Probert’s book, is that unless you were a legitimate tough guy, if you were just called up, you weren’t getting the time of day from him. He wasn’t going to fight you unless you were worthy. And that made sense to me when I read it. You’ve got to earn the right to fight him, is what he’s basically saying in the book. So I had nothing to worry about, but I only found out about that years later when I read his book. That brought it around full-circle and I laughed out loud when I read about how he assesses who he’s going to fight or not fight,” Seftel said.

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