Bob Probert carved out a fearsome reputation as an enforcer, during a lengthy career spent with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, before dying of a heart attack in 2010 at age 45. So with Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena set to host its final game Sunday, Probert’s widow found the perfect way to honor both her husband’s memory and that of the facility in which he performed for nine seasons.
By scattering some of his ashes in the penalty box.
— FOX 2 Detroit (@FOX2News) April 11, 2017
Mom spreading dad's ashes in the penalty box at The Joe… Can't think of a better place for him. So much love #FarewellToTheJoe
— Brogan Probert (@broganprobert) April 10, 2017
“This is bittersweet for me,” Dani Probert, the widow of 6-foot-3, 230-pound former player, told the Detroit Free Press before Sunday’s game, which featured numerous ceremonies and appearances from several past Red Wings stars. “I have brought some of Bob’s ashes to the game. At Christmas time, I came here with my family and the urn with his ashes and we took a photo of us sitting in the penalty box.”
Dani Probert said that her gesture was a spur-of-the-moment decision. “Had no plans whatsoever of sprinkling his ashes anywhere,” she told a radio station in Windsor, Ontario, her late husband’s home town just across the Detroit River from Joe Louis Arena. “I just hadn’t been able to let that part of him go, and it was the emotions and being with my hockey family and sitting next to Cheli [Chris Chelios].”
“We went into the penalty box … and it was incredibly emotional and it just seems so fitting, it was the perfect time.”
Probert certainly spent his more than his share of time in the sin bin, both in “The Joe” and at arenas around the NHL. He led the league in penalty minutes in 1987-88 with 398, a figure that stands as the sixth-highest single-season mark, and he is fifth all-time with 3,300 career penalty minutes.
There was more to Probert’s game, though, than just fighting, or he would not have lasted 16 seasons. The season in which he racked up those penalty minutes saw him notch a career-high 62 points, and he scored 384 total, on 163 goals and 221 assists, in 935 games.
Probert’s career was also marked by substance-abuse issues, which led to a stint in prison, a motorcycle crash and some problems traveling with the Red Wings between the United States and Canada. When he died, his funeral was attended by numerous former teammates, and Detroit icon Steve Yzerman gave his eulogy.
The Red Wings, who defeated the Devils on Sunday, will play next season in a brand-new facility, Little Caesars Arena, that will also be the new home of the NBA’s Pistons. That team played its final game Monday at its own longtime arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills, in a loss to the Wizards.