Players like Joey Kocur and Bob Probert might not have been a great fit in today’s style of NHL hockey. But the “The Bruise Brothers” put their own mark on the sport in the 80’s and 90’s.
Kocur and Probert were known for their enforcing style of hockey, punishing players and putting up huge numbers in penalty minutes.
They played for the Red Wings together for many years, before Kocur was traded to the New York Rangers in 1991.
Three years later, Probert was traded to the Blackhawks, with Detroit now being without two of their biggest and most fierce duo of players.
In 1996, Kocur was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, but the following season, he didn’t have a NHL contract. He was out of work and not one single NHL team invited him for the summer camp.
In October later the same year, the Chicago Blackhawks were in town playing the Red Wings and Kocur was in attendance to meet his old friend Probert.
Kocur asked Probert to help him get a job postgame. And there was only one way to do it.
‘Probie, you got to come in here next time and beat the (crap) out of these guys, you got to make sure they know they got to get tougher, help me get back into the league.’ I was saying it tongue-in-cheek,” Kocur told NHL.com. “But the next time he came into Detroit, he speared Jamie Pushor, he fought (Brendan) Shanahan, he just ran rampant over the team. I don’t know if he did it because I asked him to or if it was just the mood he was in that day.
The newspapers had a clear opinion. The Red Wings needed to get tougher and it was at that moment Detroit GM Scott Bowman called Kocur’s agent, telling him to report to the minors and get in shape.
A couple of weeks later, the Blackhawks once again squared off against the Red Wings. And this time Probert did what he had to do.
The Blackhawk’s winger accumulating a total of 44 penalty minutes and was, as Kocur describes it, a “one-man wrecking crew”.
Kocur played for the San Antonio Dragons in the IHL. But the day before Christmas, he got the call.
“I am sitting with my wife on the night of the 23rd, I think it was, and I get a phone call and my wife says, ‘it’s for you’ and I answer it”, Kocur remembers. “‘Hey, Joe, it’s Scott Bowman.’ I say, ‘Mr. Bowman.’ He then says, ‘I want you to send someone to pick up all your stuff (in San Antonio), we’re signing you to a contract.'”
Three days later, Joe Kocur was once again a Red Wing. He made his comeback against the Dallas Stars and the second game was going to be even more special.
Against his old friend Probert, who helped him get back into the league, in Chicago.
Kocur already had the perfect thing in mind when they met on the ice a couple of minutes into the game.
“Three minutes into the game, I’m lined up against Probie and I’m whacking him, trying to fight him and we end up having a good fight,” Kocur told NHL.com. “When the fight ended, I was laying on top of him, I looked down at him and said, ‘Thanks for getting me back in the league.’
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