Ex-NHL enforcer Probert dies at 45

Bob Probert has died at the age of 45 after collapsing with severe chest pains, a spokesman for the family of the troubled former NHL tough guy confirmed Monday evening.

Bob Probert has died at the age of 45, a spokesman for the family of the troubled former NHL tough guy confirmed Monday evening.

Family friend Rick Rogow said Probert died after collapsing with severe chest pains while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair in the Windsor, Ont., area. He was rushed to hospital around 2 p.m. ET.

"The hospital did everything it possibly could," Rogow told reporters at Windsor Regional Hospital. "It's a sad day."

Probert's father-in-law Dan Parkinson, a police officer who was on the boat, attempted unsuccessfully to revive Probert using cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.

Probert is survived by his wife and four children.

A funeral will be held in Windsor, Ont., on Friday at 10 a.m. at the Windsor Christian Fellowship church.

"This is a tragedy for the family," said Parkinson. "We ask that you respect their privacy at this time. This was totally unexpected. Bob lost the fight of his life this afternoon."

Probert was one of the most feared enforcers ever to play in the NHL. Playing for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in a 16-year career that spanned from 1985-2002, Probert accumulated 3,300 penalty minutes, the fifth-highest total of all time. He also finished with 384 points, including 163 goals.

"Bob was always there for his teammates and was one of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL," Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch said in a statement. "He also was one of the kindest, most colourful and beloved players Detroit has ever known. We are very saddened by his passing, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob's family."

At times, Probert showed he could be more than a brawler. He notched 29 goals with Detroit in 1987-88, earning his only All-Star nod in the process. Probert later added a 20-goal season with the Red Wings and a 19-goal campaign with Chicago.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Probert family during this difficult time," Blackhawks president John McDonough said in a statement. "Bob will always be a member of the Blackhawks family and his memory will live on through our fans."

Former NHL player Joe Kocur was close to Probert when they played for Detroit.

"It was great to be able to go out on the ice knowing that he had my back and I had his," Kocur said in a statement released by the team. "He was like the brother I never had."

In addition to memorable bouts with fellow tough guys such as Tie Domi and Craig Coxe, Probert was also known for his battles with drugs and alcohol. His drinking-related troubles followed him from juniors to the NHL, and in March 1989 he was arrested for cocaine possession after trying to cross the Windsor-Detroit border.

The Windsor native served three months in a U.S. prison and was suspended by the NHL during his sentence. After returning, Probert was unable for a time to leave and re-enter the U.S., which kept him from travelling with the Red Wings to road games in Canadian cities.

After his retirement, Probert mostly stayed out of the public eye. The Blackhawks honoured him with a Bob Probert Heritage Night in February 2009, and he appeared last fall as a contestant on CBC's Battle of the Blades show.

In an interview with Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman that aired in May 2008, Probert admitted he was still consuming "a couple beers here and there" but suggested he was otherwise sober.

"As of right now, life's good," Probert said. "I'm living a pretty good life, a pretty clean life."

With files from The Canadian Press