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Bob Probert documentary screened at Plaza Theatre

The life of legendary NHL enforcer Bob Probert has been put on the big screen by a local filmmaker.

Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story follows the “heavyweight champion of the NHL” from the 1980s and 1990s. The film follows Probert through his early days in hockey, his 16-year career with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, and his struggle with addiction and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It debuted at Calgary’s Plaza Theatre on Dec. 13.

Probert died of a heart attack in July 2010, and is one of many deceased NHL enforcers whose brains were found to have CTE.

However, the documentary focuses more on Probert’s career. The enforcer, who played from 1985 to 2002, is fifth all-time in NHL penalty minutes, and is unofficially credited with 236 fights by hockeyfights.com.

The documentary, directed by Geordie Day, is an adaptation of a book his mother, Kirstie McLellan Day, co-wrote with Probert before his death, Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge.

Day said the book on Probert was the one book he connected with the most out of all his mother’s work. McLellan Day has co-written many memoirs of notable hockey figures.

“Bob reminded me the most of some guys I grew up with, some hockey players,” Day said.

While Day’s mother was writing the book, she had audio tapes of Probert, leading all the way up to his death. Day used the tapes to insert a fresh take into his documentary.

“The movie is essentially narrated by Bob.

“We thought that would be a cool style. That’d be really cool to have Bob narrate his own fights as they’re happening.

“You’re seeing his fights, and he’s explaining what’s happening. You’re seeing a game and he’s talking about what’s going on – providing context.”

Besides Probert narrating his hockey career, he also describes his downfalls with addiction, which were a lifelong trend.

“To me, addiction is sad. I think right from day one that’s what we saw, a life filled with addiction, and addiction takes the toughest,” said Sheldon Kennedy in the film. Kennedy, himself an addict, was Probert’s teammate and close friend.

Kennedy recollected on his time with Probert, witnessing his battle, and seeing a glimpse of what could be, but would never completely happen.

“What I remember more than the hockey stuff is when we lived together,” Kennedy said.

“I saw a guy that was a great person, and did the right thing when he wasn’t drinking, or drunk.”

Fellow NHL enforcer legends like Tie Domi, Marty McSorley, and Tony Twist also appear in the film. Other appearances include Probert’s wife, Dani, and Don Cherry.

Day said it was really exciting to talk to the former “goons,” and they were excited to talk about Probert.

“I think Bob was a guy’s guy. He was a favourite in the NHL amongst people that played on his team. He protected them; he was a big, goofy guy,” Day said.

“Any NHL player that played with Bob just adored him, so they were happy to chat with us.”

Day believes that Probert set an example for other NHL enforcers to be honest and truthful.

Kennedy discussed what it was like to be around Probert in his prime. On a star-studded 1990s Red Wings team, the fan favourite enforcer managed to share the spotlight with stars such as Steve Yzerman.

Kennedy also said there will never be anybody like Probert: an enforcer who could not only fight, but score goals.

“He was a great character and I think he’s a very unique individual, and there won’t be another Probie.”

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