The Hard Life and Times of Bob Probert


Bob Probert’s arrest Thursday for allegedly smuggling cocaine into the United States was another wretched episode in the life of a man seemingly bent on self-destruction.

Rumors that his problems went beyond alcohol abuse had long been circulating around the National Hockey League and scared off several teams that were interested in acquiring him from the Detroit Red Wings for his size and brute strength; it’s unlikely he will play in the NHL again.

The Red Wings’ tolerance of his outrageous disregard for curfews and regulations created a huge rift because it established one set of rules for Probert and another for everyone else. And the distraction of wondering whether he would show--and what shape he’d be in if he did--dragged the Wings down all season. They should be better than their record, barely above .500, shows. Look for them to take off now that they don’t have to worry about him and his problems.

The Red Wings’ organization helped Probert immensely by sending him through various alcohol rehabilitation programs during the last two years and keeping him on the payroll.


They may have done too much. Probert ultimately has to be responsible for himself, and he is either incapable or unwilling to accept that. It’s sad to see anyone apparently tumble into the trap of drug abuse, but Probert walked in with his eyes open and after being given more chances of rescue than most people.

There should be a flurry of activity up until Tuesday’s trading deadline. But don’t believe the Denis Savard trade rumors. He’s going to stay in Chicago because he’s simply too valuable an offensive weapon and because if he gets hot, he might lead the Blackhawks through two Norris playoff rounds.

Here are some people who might have new addresses:

Winnipeg center Dale Hawerchuk is being ardently sought by several teams. The most persistent rumor has the Philadelphia Flyers landing him in exchange for left winger Brian Propp, center Dave Poulin and a draft pick.


Hawerchuk would be a tremendous addition to a corps that includes Ron Sutter and Keith Acton. But Philadelphia can’t afford to trade away wingers, so Propp, who is playing well, may not be dealt.

The Flyers and Buffalo Sabres are looking for goaltenders. Quebec’s Mario Gosselin might fit the bill in Philadelphia, and Buffalo may get Toronto’s Ken Wregget.

The St. Louis Blues and Jets discussed a deal that would send defenseman Brian Benning and center Tony Hrkac to Winnipeg for veteran defenseman Randy Carlyle and winger Andrew McBain. Bad deal for St. Louis. General Manager Ron Caron, who seems to make 90% of his trades with Montreal and 9% with Calgary, can do better if he needs help on defense.

The Los Angeles Kings would like a defensive-oriented defenseman and have asked the Toronto Maple Leafs about Borje Salming. They have few draft picks left to give, though, and to give up another young player would be most foolish.

Edmonton General Manager Glen Sather reportedly wants Walt Poddubny (whom he had briefly), Michel Goulet or Peter Stastny from Quebec. His best shot is Poddubny, who wouldn’t mind leaving the French-speaking city and could help the Oilers’ power play.

Toronto is willing to move Tom Fergus and Ed Olczyk, and the New York Rangers might make a pitch for Olczyk, a strong forward who plays center or wing. What do the Leafs need? Everything.

Former Sabres star Gilbert Perreault, coach of Victoriaville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, on his job: “Anybody can coach. It all depends on how the players understand you and how much respect you get from them. Respect is what separates winning coaches from ones who don’t win.”