Saturday, 7 January 2012

TBC: Tough Guy

I return today after laughing and feeling the lump in my throat build up on a couple of occasions after reading the latest addition to Teebz's Book Club. Without a doubt, this book is a fabulous way to kick off 2012 on HBIC, so I'm proud to present Tough Guy, written by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day and published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited. Bob Probert was always considered to be one of the toughest men to have ever laced up the skates in the NHL, but his battles off the ice have put him in a new light as I have learned that he is also one of the toughest, most compassionate and caring individuals to have ever graced the NHL. Make no mistake that Probert was an icon for his toughness, but his life was full of challenges. Some broke him and others were beaten by Probert, but, thanks to Tough Guy, Bob Probert was one of the most colorful and interesting men to have ever walked this planet.

From the HarperCollins website, "Bob Probert, born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, was a winger with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks between 1985 and 2002. A loving husband to Dani and father of four children, Probert died suddenly on July 5, 2010, while with his family on his boat near Windsor. He was forty-five years old."

Also from the HarperCollins website, "Kirstie McLellan Day has written five other books, including the #1 bestselling memoir of Theo Fleury, Playing with Fire, and the bestselling memoir of Bob Probert, Tough Guy, as well as Above and Beyond, a biography of cable magnate JR Shaw, Under the Mat, a memoir with Diana Hart of the Hart wrestling family, and No Remorse, a true-crime story. The mother of five lives with her husband, broadcaster Larry Day, in Calgary, Alberta. Visit her online at"

As stated above from hi biography, Bob Probert has passed away. The motivation for reading this book came from only knowing Bob Probert through the various newspaper reports and video highlights I've seen, and I thought there might be more to Probert than just what the media has shown. Indeed, this book takes one inside Bob Probert like only his family knows him. It is this journey into Bob Probert's life and mind that really gives you the real insight into who Bob Probert was, and I believe that Tough Guy is one of the best hockey books available today.

I have read other books about celebrities who have battled addiction problems. Artie Lange's documented troubles in Too Fat To Fish gave an interesting look into a fairly well-known person's troubles, so reading Bob Probert's candid and honest recollections of his troubles with drinking and drugs really hit home. Here was a man who was considered to be the toughest man during his era in the NHL, and he continually lost battles with his two vices: alcohol and cocaine.

That's not to say that Tough Guy is simply a journal of sex and booze, though. Bob Probert is, perhaps, one of the funniest men to have ever penned a book about his career. Probert remembers a lot of the guys he battled, and talks about who fought fair, who needed their bells rung, and recounts a lot of his favorite moments as an NHL player. There are stories from his days in the AHL, stories from his time as an NHL representative in Afghanistan with the Canadian troops, and stories from his personal life that are really, really funny.

Perhaps the person who deserves a lot of the credit in making this book happen is Danielle Probert, Bob Probert's wife. Through 17 years - some of the agonizing as Probert battled his demons - Danielle stood by her man. Through it all, Dani Probert was the rock that Bob Probert needed in his life to help him up when he fell down. Together with Dani, the Proberts had four children - Brogan, Tierney, Declyn, and Jack - and while it took Bob a lot of mistakes to finally realize it, his family was everything to him. A lot of that credit has to go to Danielle who also made this book a reality after Bob's passing in 2010. It becomes clear in Tough Guy that she is the love of Bob's life.

One of my favorite parts in Tough Guy is when Probert gives his opinion on Gary Bettman and the game of hockey today. Bob writes,

"Bettman, he's an (expletive). A frikkin' (expletive). I think he's ruined the game of hockey. He's supposed to be impartial. He's supposed to speak for the good of the league, but in my opinion, he's strictly behind the owners. Those 1996 rule changes are a joke. The rules are that an instigator gets ten minutes for a first offence, and a game misconduct for a second offence. The third man into a fight gets two games. If you scrap when the puck drops, that's five games. Five games for going over the boards, and if your sweater comes off, you sit a game. I don't think Bettman realized the consequences of putting in these rules. They target guys who are fortunate enough that they can play the game and fight. When they are on a penalty, it hurts the team. But the rules don't bother guys who get called up strictly to fight. What difference does it make to them to spend time in the box? It took the spontaneity out of the game. It wasn't right."
Coming from a guy who was in 238 fights, I think Probert's perspective on fighting in hockey is one that should be considered. He makes some good points, despite his choice of words to describe Mr. Bettman being a little colorful.

Tough Guy is a fantastic look at Bob Probert's life both on and off the ice. There are definite areas where you'll laugh, you'll feel his sadness, and you'll certainly reflect on your own life as you read through Bob's struggles and joy. Tough Guy was a pleasure to read, and I certainly recommend reading it as Tough Guy deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

While the language, as demonstrated above, is a little colorful, this book gets a PG-rating from me. That being said, it's a tragedy that we lost Bob Probert so early in his life because this book could have spawned several sequels. If you're a fan in any way of Bob Probert, this book will resonate with you or the hockey fan in your life. Highly recommended, and Tough Guy is a must-read for all hockey fans!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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