Tomorrow (Friday) is Bob Probert’s funeral. Every fan I’ve spoken to–and every blog I’ve read–have all expressed their sadness at the untimely passing of the popular ex-NHL enforcer.
A short Bob Probert story I’d like to share happened in February of this year, when Mr. Probert called my cell phone. No, I am not claiming to have known the man–but it isn’t every day that a former NHL player calls up a run-of-the-mill hockey blogger such as myself.
To protect his privacy, I am leaving out the name of Probert’s friend, who initiated the phone call. Also note that the following conversation is paraphrased from my memory.
February 3, 2010. Around 7 pm, I was heading out the door when my cell phone rang. I did not recognize the number–it had some area code I did not know–but being the adventurous type answered it anyway.
“Hi, is this Sal?” a man asked. “I’m a friend of Bob Probert’s. He’s wondering if you would email me a copy of his picture on your site.”
“Huh?” I asked, not sure what to make of this.
“Hang on a sec,” the man said. He passed the phone to someone.
“Hi, this is Bob Probert.”
“Seriously?” I asked. “THE Bob Probert.”
“Wow. What can I do for you?”
“You know that picture on your website, where I’m in a ‘Hawks jersey and smiling?” Probert asked. “I was wondering if you could email a copy of it. I’m playing in a charity game out in B.C. (British Columbia) tonight, and I want to make copies of it to autograph for fans.”
“It’s a good picture,” I said. “But it’s already signed by you.” (I got the photo signed at the Blackhawks’ Convention last summer).
“Do you think you can somehow cover up the autograph?”
“Sure. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?”
Not thinking very hard, I quickly asked “What was your most memorable fight?”
“Oh, man I get asked that one a lot….”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It isn’t exactly the most original question to ask you.”
“They were all pretty memorable,” Probert said. “But I guess I’d have to say probably the one with (Tie) Domi.”
“What’s your favorite memory as a player?”
“Easy. Scoring the last goal ever at Maple Leaf Gardens.”
After that, I talked again with Probert’s friend, who gave me the technical details (what size to scan the photo, where to email it). Since they were in B.C., the charity game would not start for a few more hours, which bought me some time to work my “Photoshop magic” and digitally remove the autograph.
Hockey players are said to be the nicest athletes around. I know Probert signed a ton of autographs for fans at last year’s Blackhawks’ Convention, and from what I heard he never turned down signing for someone.
As a hockey fan, it was nice to “give back” a bit to a player who was always so willing to give to the fans. And though it lasted only a moment, it was a cool experience to converse with a player that I enjoyed watching back in the day.