“Tough Guy: The Bob Probert” Movie Review: A Deep Look Into The Greatest Fighter in NHL History

Nightschool Films adapted Bob Probert’s autobiography into a documentary and in my opinion, did a tremendous job at doing so.

On Friday, August 9th, I uploaded four new blogs to BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Make sure to check them all out. Here they are:






In my second movie review of the week (Check out my Terry Sawchuk movie review here: http://www.doinow.com/sawchukmovie) I will be taking time out to take a look at the “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” documentary, that’s now available on all major platforms. As mentioned in my Sawchuk review, it was hard to find a legal copy of the Sawchuk movie, here in America. That is not the case here, as you can find “Tough Guy” on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube or wherever else you go for movies.

Keeping up with the Sawchuk comparisons, both of these legendary players spent the prime of their careers with the Detroit Red Wings. Additionally, both of these players now have movies of their lives, which were both obviously released post-mortem.

While Terry Sawchuk is a Hall of Famer and Bob Probert is not, at least of this writing; both players are considered by many to be the best at what they did. Sawchuk is known as one of the best goalies of all time, if not the best. When it comes to Probert, there’s really not much argument about this statement – he was the best fighter in NHL history. When it comes to the “Top Enforcers in NHL History”, Bob Probert is number 1. Everyone else is a distant second.

“Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” uses “Tough Guy: My Life On The Edge” as its source material.
Just like the Sawchuk movie that I reviewed, when it came to this Bob Probert documentary, I read the source material first. In fact, you can find my “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” book review by using this link:  http://doinow.com/detwin/

Unlike the Sawchuk movie, “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” is not a fictionalized account of Probert’s life, nor or any actors used. This movie is a documentary, with many luminaries lending their time and relaying their accounts of Probert. Those people are Chris Chelios, Joey Kocur, Jeremey Roenick, Don Cherry, Tie Domi, Tony Twist and countless others. This documentary also features Probert’s wife, Dani Probert, who really sheds some insight about her late husband.

And for those who don’t know or are too lazy to click my book review link, when “Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge” was being worked on, Bob Probert wrote 90% of the book. Unfortunately, he passed away on July 5th, 2010, while the autobiography book on his life was being put together. To keep her husband’s memory alive, Dani Probert kept the project going with Probert’s co-author, in Kirstie McLellan Day. Together, the two women finished the book on Probert’s life. As I said then, and as I’ll say again here, the book is 100% worth reading.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the official trailer of the movie:

Like many boxing or MMA heavyweights, Domi and Probert had a great deal of respect for one another.

In “Tough Guy”, the movie, the filmmakers do a great job of recapping Bob’s life, his career and death. While there are some timeline issues from Probert’s Chicago & Detroit days, for the most part, this documentary does a bang-up job of covering Probert’s career, both on and off the ice.

Just like the book, Dani Probert somewhat comes off as the “star” of this documentary, as her accounts of Bob are the most telling. As a human being, you will connect with Dani’s stories the most. While Bob was no saint and did have CTE and brain issues in his later days, Dani raised a family by herself. You feel for her and with what she went through. The movie even goes back to Bob’s site of death, in what is really a heart-wrenching moment. I can’t imagine how that was for Dani or her children.

To this day, Dani Probert hosts bike runs in memory of her late husband. Photo Credit: Dani Probert

What makes “Tough Guy” work as a movie, is that the documentary doesn’t sugar coat anything, except for one topic, which I’ll get into later on in this review. While Bob is easily the best fighter/enforcer in NHL history, he had a checkered past. The documentary doesn’t shy away from Bob’s transgressions. In fact, the documentary embraces it and realizes what Bob did off the ice will entice viewers.

Dani Probert in “Tough Guy”.

As mentioned, while several ex-NHLers and current NHL personalities lend their time to this documentary, Dani Probert is what makes this film work. Instead of having her head in the sand & denying the tough times, Dani is open about everything. We also get to see a different side of Bob through her eyes – Bob the family man, Bob the husband, Bob the father and Bob the provider. We get to learn Bob’s likes and dislikes. Knowing now that he had CTE, it also explains some of his actions during the end of his life, especially during one Christmas, which is talked about in-depth during this documentary.

It’s hard to talk about people after they passed. However, what makes this film hit home, is that because Bob Probert was working on a book at the time of his death, there were hours upon hours of audio recordings of Bob Probert discussing his career and his life with his co-author, Kirstie McLellan Day. These recordings allow Bob to be the narrator of his own documentary. The documentary covers Bob’s life chronologically, with Bob’s words from those book recordings fueling the pace of the movie.

We know the hockey career of Bob Probert. In “Tough Guy”, we get to know the person. Photo Credit: Tough Guy

I’ve mentioned a few times already that Bob Probert had CTE. Unfortunately, doctors can only 100% say for certain that someone has CTE after they died. I’m sure one day, that will no longer be the case, but for athletes, their brains are being donated to science NOW, to help athletes of the FUTURE.

I’m not a liberal. I’m not a fan of the fancy skating. I love the sandpaper and fighting types. Even as a Rangers fan, I always loved watching Bob Probert. I still watch his fights on YouTube to this day. If you know me, I have a pro wrestling background. I’m a huge fan of MMA, whether it’s UFC or Bellator. I’m a big fan of boxing, whether it’s the big title prize fights or the Premier Boxing Championship shows that are hosted in my area. I love watching one-on-one combat. It’s not for everyone, but I enjoy it. Shit, I’ll even watch “Bum Fights” on DVD!

For better or for worse, Bob Probert, while a talented hockey player, will always be known for fighting. No one will ever talk about the 163 goals he scored or near 400 points he accumulated. When you talk Probert, you talk about his hands.

The elephant in the room is that the documentary ignores the topic of concussions. In fact, in the movie, Don Cherry even says, “I won’t go into concussions.”

Listen, I’m aware that this movie is a story about Bob Probert. I’m aware that when he played, CTE and concussions weren’t a major issue or something people didn’t even know about. We evolve with the times. We need to learn from history. We move forward. I just thought the documentary allowed the topic of concussions and CTE to sit in the back-seat. I have no problem with lionizing and pumping my chest about Probert’s fighting and enforcing, but shying away from the aftermath felt irresponsible to me. You could even say, “In Bob’s day, we didn’t know about this stuff.” That’s all. To ignore the topic, that would be my one gripe/criticism of the documentary.

During the 1988 All-Star Game, the two biggest names in the league, in Mark Messier & Wayne Gretzky, wanted to meet one guy – Bob Probert. Photo Credit: NHL

As a Probert fan, I enjoyed this movie. As someone who now finds Probert a nostalgic memory from my youth, I liked this movie. However, I can see why some people may not like this movie. Probert, off the ice, had a history full of DWI’s, car/bike crashes, steroid abuse and drug use. While Dani is a sympathetic character in this story, Bob Probert is not. How many chances does one get to cheat death and jail? As hockey fans, we can all appreciate Bob’s career (and non-fighting fans won’t) but as humans, Bob Probert wasn’t exactly a Class A citizen in either Canada or the United States.

Simply put, Bob Probert was irresponsible. Were his actions caused by CTE? It’s not a link the documentary even attempts to make. What can’t be denied though, is that “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” is an interesting film, one worth of several re-watches.

As a Ranger fan, a guy like Bob Probert may have had the career path of a Dylan McIlrath, if Probert played in today’s NHL. However, in his time, Probert was the most feared man in hockey. While one can’t feel bad for the choices Bob chose to make, you do feel for his wife and his children.

I would recommend “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Movie” to any hockey fan. As I said in my Sawchuk movie review, I don’t have a corny or cheesy rating system. All I can tell you is that this movie is worth watching, while enjoying a few belts and pops in your Lazy Boy. Just don’t drive afterwards!

You can also find out more about the movie by visiting the official website at https://www.toughguymovie.com/

As always, thanks for reading and…


Sean McCaffrey


@NYCTHEMIC on the tweet tweet

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