July 6, 2010 at 1:00 am

Red Wings mourn Bob Probert's sudden passing

Bob Probert, right, spent nine seasons with the Red Wings and seven with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Detroit News file photo)

Detroit -- Bob Probert, one of the most popular and rugged players in Red Wings history, died Monday at the age of 45.

Probert collapsed around 2 p.m. on a boat on Lake St. Clair in Windsor.

Emergency crews performed CPR on Probert, then transported him to Windsor Regional Hospital, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Dan Parkinson, Probert's father-in-law, said in a news conference at the hospital Monday evening Probert developed a "severe chest pain" before collapsing.

"This is a tragedy for the family and totally unexpected," Parkinson said.

The family took no questions at the news conference.

Probert spent nine seasons with the Red Wings and seven with the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the most feared fighters in NHL history, Probert accumulated 3,300 penalty minutes with 163 goals and 384 points. He played in 1988 All-Star Game.

"I'm in shock, total shock," said Joe Kocur, who along with Probert formed the "Bruise Brothers," a hugely popular duo.

Probert, especially, and Kocur were adored by Wings fans for their pugilistic ways.

"It's horrible," Kocur said. "When I heard this afternoon, I cried. I had all sorts of emotions. You don't expect someone at that age to die."

Kocur and Probert co-authored a "Bruise Brothers" book and remained good friends after their playing days were over.

"Obviously, we went to different teams through the years, but through it all, we stayed in touch and maintained our friendship," Kocur said. "We still had that bond and that never left. The last time I talked to him (about a month ago), he felt real good. Every time I saw him, he looked fine.

"I just can't believe this."

Jimmy Devellano, the Wings' senior vice president, drafted Probert (third round) and Kocur (fifth round) in 1983.

Devellano called Probert one of the most talented players he acquired for the Wings.

"He had Hall of Fame-type of ability, he really did," Devellano said. "He was superb. He had toughness and ability, a lot of it."

What damaged Probert's career was a series of problems with drugs and alcohol that forced the Wings to cut ties with him, and put him in an NHL-supervised treatment center.

Still, Wings fans loved Probert, who six times in his career with Detroit had more than 200 penalty minutes. He had 29 goals in the 1987-88 season and had 21 points (eight goals) in the playoffs that spring, leading the Wings to the Western Conference finals, where they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

"I've always said that if the Hall of Fame put people in for intimidation and toughness, Probie would be in there," Kocur said. "There's no doubt he was the best. No one was better."

Probert defined a new position in the NHL, said Jim Nill, the Wings' assistant general manager, who played three seasons with Probert from 1987-90.

"Power forward," Nill said. "He wasn't one-dimensional, as only a tough guy. He had tremendous skills, and because of his toughness, people gave him a lot of room on the ice and he took advantage of it.

"Probie was a major reason behind the Red Wings' turnaround in those years. Off the ice, he was a quiet guy, a guy who was devoted to his family."

Probert's intimidation and fearlessness was talked about in opposing locker rooms, said Dave Lewis, the former Wings head coach who played with Probert (1987-89), then coached him as an assistant.

Lewis said, with a chuckle, former Los Angeles teammate Bernie Nichols always wanted to stay on Probert's good side.

"Bernie always wanted to know what kind of mood Bob was in before we played," Lewis said. "Bernie would always go over and say, "You're in a good mood tonight, Probie, right?"

Wings GM Ken Holland called the passing a "tragic loss."

In a statement released by the team, Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch said: "Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL. He also was one of the kindest, most colorful, and beloved players Detroit has ever known."

Probert, a native of Windsor, retired following the 2001-02 season, after playing 935 regular-season games. He played in 81 playoff games and had 16 goals and 274 penalty minutes.

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A referee escorts Bob Probert during a game in 1991, after the Wings ... (The Detroit News)