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Bob Probert, shown here in an undated photo, played 16 seasons in the NHL as a Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Blackhawk, but began as a player in the Windsor Minor Hockey Association. ((Submitted by Dean Lapierre))

Bob Probert was an internationally known hockey star, but he was also a hometown boy, whose death was being mourned Tuesday in Windsor, Ont.

Probert, 45, died Monday afternoon while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair near Windsor.

He was known as the NHL's tough guy for his legendary ability to fight on the ice, but his sudden collapse from chest pains shocked his family and the hockey world.

"Bob lost the fight of his life this afternoon," said Dan Parkinson, Probert's father-in-law, who tried to resuscitate Probert as the man's wife, Dani, and four children looked on.

Played 935 NHL games

Tributes immediately began pouring in for the former Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Blackhawk, whose career spanned 1985-2002.

During that time, Probert accumulated 3,300 penalty minutes, the fifth-highest total of all time, and he was known as one half of the "Bruise Brothers" along with former Red Wing Joey Kocur.

"I've mentioned in the past, how good of shape he's been in that he could still play," said Kocur.

"I don't know the circumstances, but it's a terrible day for us. He's always going to be with me in my heart."

Wings, Blackhawks remember Probert

In a statement on its website, the Detroit Red Wings organization also praised Probert's attitude as a team player.

"Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL," said owners Mike and Marian Ilitch.

'I'll remember him as a big galoot who would come into my office and say 'How we gonna get out of this one?' ' —Patrick Ducharme, lawyer and friend

"He also was one of the kindest, most colorful, and beloved players Detroit has ever known."

The last of Probert's 935 NHL games were played with the Chicago Blackhawks, whose president, John McDonough, also remembered the team's star forward Monday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Probert family during this difficult time," said McDonough.

"Bob will always be a member of the Blackhawks family, and his memory will live on through our fans."

Served 3 months in U.S. prison

Probert, however, was also known for his battles off the ice.

Probert's drinking problem began when he was still in the junior leagues playing with the Brantford Alexanders and later with both the Hamilton Steelhawks and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Then in 1989, Probert was busted trying to cross the Windsor-Detroit border with cocaine.

He served three months in a U.S. prison and was suspended from the NHL.

The conviction meant Probert could not travel back and forth across the border, barring him from playing in Red Wings road games in Canadian cities.

'He was really a quiet, shy retiring man '

Patrick Ducharme was Probert's lawyer, agent and friend, who said the public's perception of Probert as a tough guy didn't always fit.

"What they don't know is that he was really a quiet, shy, retiring man who really wanted to be left alone. Didn't like to talk with people very much, didn't like to mix it up in public. He was really very a private man."

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In this photo taken Jan. 27, 2007, former Detroit Red Wings player Bob Probert is seen on the bench between shifts of an exhibition game against Boston Bruins alumni in Detroit. ((Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/Associated Press))

Ducharme said he was often shocked at how Probert could play in spite of all kinds of challenges, recalling the day Probert's car hit a light standard then crashed through the front of a Windsor restaurant leaving Probert with seven broken ribs.

"He had a game that night, and he wanted to play in that game .… He could barely move his arms," said Ducharme.

"That night, I recall that he scored a goal, he had one goal called back, and he had a tough fight that lasted 40 seconds … he had amazing resiliency."

Ducharme said Probert was also very funny with a great sense of humour.

"I'll remember him as a big galoot who would come into my office and say 'How we gonna get out of this one?'"

An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.

No funeral details have been announced.