Monday, 22 February 2021

TMC: Tough Guy

While waiting for the Lake Tahoe outdoor games to commence or resume on the weekend, I went off in search of something hockey to watch because there was an entertainment void in my life at that moment. I went searching for said hockey entertainment on the ol' Interwebs, and I found a film that not only captured my attention but really spoke to me regarding the subject. In saying that, Teebz's Movie Club is proud to review Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story, directed by Geordie Day. I actually reviewed the Tough Guy book way back in 2012, so settling in for this film on Probert's life had me intrigued. But rather than being entertained, the film takes a hard look at Bob Probert's life, the people who tried to help him, the people who enabled him, and the people missing him after he tragically passed away on July 5, 2010.

The names you'll see in Tough Guy who made their careers in the NHL are very recognizable: Tie Domi, Troy Crowder, Joey Kocur, Colin Campbell, Don Cherry, and Chris Chelios to name a few. These men pull no punches, if you'll excuse the pun, on the kind of player Bob Probert was, how good he was, and how his addictions and dependencies changed him and affected him on the ice is rather eye-opening. Everyone knew that Bob Probert was tough, but he could score goals and make plays when given the opportunity. These men saw the good in Probert when it came to him playing hockey, but it was the other side of the coin they could get him to reconcile.

There are other people, though, who sit down for the documentary to talk about the impact that Bob Probert had on them, and they include his wife Dani Probert, his mom Theresa Probert, his brother Norm Probert, and his three daughters Brogan, Tierney, and Declyn. To hear some of these people talk about Bob Probert's loving nature, his caring parenting, his love of his children, and his devotion to his family is endearing in that you forget how feared he was on the ice. However, it was his absences due to drinking and drug use, his repeated arrests, and his repeated relapses that shook these people he loved so much. It's this portion of the film that is hard to watch.

Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story does an excellent job in telling a story that not many wanted to hear about Probert. There are no corners cut when it comes to Probert's brushes with the law and his repeated alcohol- and drug-fuelled episodes as Geordie Day digs into the these moments, and it's hard to see a guy with so much potential struggle to get himself right, particularly early in his career.

There are moments of happiness, though, where you see him at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game, see him dancing joyfully with his kids, and his wedding, but those seem to be few and far between when it comes to everything else he dealt with in his life - the legal troubles, the constant fighting in the game and keeping an NHL roster spot, and the never-ending number of enablers who allowed him to relapse despite him trying to right his life. Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story might be less about Bob Probert's failures and more about the failures of the system that was supposed to help him find his way out of darkness.

One of the interviews in Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story involved former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach and current NHL executive Colin Campbell. Campbell spoke of how the Red Wings saw Probert as a commodity rather than a person when it came to what he brought to the team.
"We were selfish, too. We knew how good Bob was and how he could help us, so we didn't fix it the way we really had to fix it. We wanted him to clean it up in two weeks. He spent a lifetime getting the way he did, and we thought we could fix it up in seven-to-ten days."
Admittedly, the Red Wings attempted something that rarely was done back then in seeking help for Bob Probert, but Campbell's description of the help they sought was more pills and medication to treat the addiction rather than treating the person. The Red Wings reaped the popularity of their star player, but did the bare minimum to help him through his well-known and well-documented addiction problem while they filled seats, sold merchandise, and peddled concessions at games.

If you've read the book, Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story in movie form is just as compelling and certainly will give you a great look into Bob Probert's far-too-short life and career in the NHL. If you haven't read the book, Tough Guy is a must-watch for what Geordie Day shows you in the many interviews, news clips, and documents presented in the film. It's not glamourous or fairy tale-like in any way, but the reality wasn't either for everyone involved in the film. You get that sense while watching Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story, and it's this realism and gravity of the situations that make this film an excellent watch about a flawed man who was loved so dearly by fans and family, feared by his opponents, and whose life ended far too soon.

Teebz's Rating: ★★★★★

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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