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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Taking on Probert: profiles in courage

In researching this post’s featured players, I stumbled across an interesting fact: Troy Crowder, renowned tough guy, fought arguably the toughest fighter of the 1990s, Bob Probert, four times in his career. Not only that, Crowder got the better of Probert in their first match, and held his own in the other three.

This made me curious: which players had tussled with Probert the most during his legendary career? Not surprisingly, the list is a who’s who of 1990s tough guys, presented below:

  • Stu Grimson (13 career fights): I should have guessed the Grim Reaper would be # 1. The majority of their bouts came as their two teams (Detroit and Chicago) were long-time division rivals, first in the Norris then the Central. Grimson v Probert Round 1came in December 1990; Round 13 came 11 years later, with Probert playing for Chicago and Grimson for Nashville. Surprisingly these two only had one game with multiple fights.

  • Tie Domi (9 fights): another case of division rivalry leading to more bouts, Probert v. Domi occurred six times during Domi’s time with Toronto. Domi gave up five inches to Probert but would hold his own, with their nine fights spread out between February 1992 and November 1998.

  • Donald Brashear (8 fights): the first tilt came in December 1993, Brashear’s rookie season with Montreal. The next seven tilts came in Brashear’s tenure with Vancouver, including in three fights in three months (February to April 1999).

  • Jeff Odgers (6 fights): journeyman Odgers had his first scrap with Probert in December 1993 with San Jose. Their last two bouts came in March 1999 on back-to-back nights with Odgers playing for Colorado.

  • Todd Ewen (6 fights): the earliest first fight on this list, Probert and Ewen fought twice when Ewen played for the Blues in January 1987. The first bout that evening saw Ewen knock Probert out with a single punch before a rematch. Their last match was in February 1997.

  • Craig Berube (6 fights): half of the Probert-Berube battles came in March and April of 1987 when Berube played for the Flyers. Their last bout was a two-for-one special in January 1993 with Berube playing for Calgary.

Card 339 - Rick Tabaracci

A goaltender, Tabaracci was selected 26th overall by Pittsburgh in 1987, the second goalie taken in the draft after Jimmy Waite. Tabaracci played two additional seasons in the OHL with Cornwall, winning goalie of the year in 1988. He made his NHL debut during the 1988-89 season, appearing in one game for the Penguins.

In June 1989 he was traded to Winnipeg in a six-player deal, and would spend most of the next two seasons with Moncton in the AHL while appearing in 42 games with the Jets, winning 10. During the 1992 playoffs Tabaracci started every game over regular season starter Bob Essensa in the Jets’ division semi-finals loss to Vancouver. Late the following season he would be traded to Washington for Jim Hrivnak and a second round draft pick. During his one full season as a Capital, Tabaracci appeared in 32 games, winning 13.

During the lockout shortened 1994-95 season he was traded to Calgary, splitting the crease with Trevor Kidd the following season, posting a 19-16-3 record. Despite some success with the Flames, Tabaracci was moved to Tampa Bay early the following season. The 1996-97 season would prove to be a career-year for him, playing in 62 games, winning 22 and recording five shutouts. Tabaracci capped off the season by winning a gold medal with Canada at the World Championships.

His time with the Lightning was short lived, as in June 1997 he was shipped back to Calgary, and would lead the Flames in games played with 42, winning 13. The next two seasons saw Tabaracci bounce between Washington, Atlanta and Colorado, with stops in the IHL as well. In June 2000 he was selected by Columbus in the expansion draft, but signed with Dallas as a free agent. He never suited up for the Stars, instead playing his final pro season with Utah in IHL.

In 11 NHL seasons, Tabaracci played in 286 games, posting a 93-125-30 record, 3.00 goals against and .893 save percentage.

YouTube clip: getting wall-papered by Pat Verbeek during his first game in the NHL, and his only game with Pittsburgh.

Card 340 - Steven Finn

A defenceman, Finn was drafted 57th overall by Quebec in the 1984 draft. He played one additional season of junior hockey before appearing in four games in the AHL to kick start his pro career.

Finn split his first two full pro seasons between the Nords and the AHL, playing 53 NHL games, scoring two goals, eight points and recording 68 penalty minutes. During the 1987 playoffs he played in all 13 games as the Nordiques lost the Adams Division Finals to rival Montreal in seven games. Over his next seven seasons, Finn appeared in 75 or more games four times, and recorded over 150 penalty minutes each season. His career high PIMs mark came in 1988-89 at 235.

More enforcer than scorer, Finn scored a career-high six goals and 13 points in 1990-91, the season he was co-captain of the Nordiques with Joe Sakic. After 10 seasons in Quebec, Finn and the franchise moved to Colorado, but before suiting up with the Avalanche he was traded to Tampa Bay for a draft pick. After 16 games as a member of the Lightning, Finn was traded a second time, going to Los Angeles for Michel Petit.

Finn finished the 1995-96 season in Los Angeles, and would play one more as King before a final pro season in 1997-98 with Long Beach of the IHL.

In 12 NHL seasons, Finn played in 725 games, scoring 34 goals and 112 points. He recorded 1725 career penalty minutes and had 69 career fights. In retirement he turned to working as a motivational speaker and life coach.

YouTube clip: fighting Sabres’ enforcer Rob Ray during a January 1993 game.

Card 341 - Gary Suter

A defenceman, Suter was drafted 180th overall by Calgary in the 1984 draft after his freshman year with the University of Wisconsin. He played one more season with the Badgers, making his NHL debut in the 1985-86 season. As a rookie, Suter scored 18 goals and 68 points, was named to the all-rookie team, and won the Calder Trophy as best rookie.

His statistics regressed slightly the following season (nine goals and 48 points), but he bounced back in 1987-88 with 21 goals and a career-high 91 points. Suter was also named a second team all-star and a finalist for the Norris Trophy. 1988-89 saw Suter missed significant time in the regular season due to an emergency appendectomy. In the playoffs he suffered a broken jaw in Game 5 of the Smythe Division Semi-Finals against Vancouver, forcing him to miss the rest of the Flames’ run to a Stanley Cup victory.

Over the next four seasons Suter scored at just under a point-per-game pace, including a career-high 23 goals in 1992-93. He missed most of the 1993-94 season due to knee injuries and in March 1994 was traded twice in two days. First, Suter was sent to Hartford with Ted Drury and Paul Ranheim for Michael Nylander, James Patrick and Zarley Zalapski. The next day Hartford sent Suter to Chicago in a four player trade.

Suter played 16 games with the Hawks to round out the 1993-94 season, and over the next three seasons he didn’t miss a single game, scoring 20 goals and 67 points in 1995-96. Suter’s iron man streak was partially interrupted by a four-game suspension he received in the 1997-98 season for a vicious cross-check to the head of Paul Kariya.

June 1998 saw Suter traded to San Jose for a late round draft pick. He played only a single game for the Sharks in 1998-99 due to an infection in his triceps muscle. He returned the following year, and played three full seasons for the Sharks before retiring after the 2001-02 season.

In 17 NHL seasons Suter played in 1145 games, scoring 203 goals and 844 points. He played in four all-star games (1986, 88, 89, and 91) and was named to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012. His nephew, Ryan Suter, is a long-time NHLer with Nashville and Minnesota. Gary currently runs youth hockey camps in Wisconsin and has coached high school hockey since 2020.

YouTube clip: Suter was a notorious cheap shot artist, as evident by a stick-swinging incident with Andrei Lomakin in the 1987 Canada Cup and his cross-check to Paul Kariya.

Card 342 - Troy Crowder

A right winger, Crowder was drafted 108th overall by New Jersey in 1986. He played two more seasons in the OHL, seeing his first NHL action during the 1988 playoffs, playing in two games during the Prince of Wales Conference Finals. The Devils lost to Boston in seven games, with Crowder getting in two fights. He turned pro full-time in 1988-89 with the Utica Devils of the AHL and made his NHL debut the following season, playing in 10 games.

1990-91 would prove to be Crowder’s best NHL season, earning career highs in games (53), goals (6), points (9) and penalty minutes (182). At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Crowder was one of the bigger players in the NHL and a noted enforcer who took on Bob Probert three times that season.

The following season Crowder signed as a free agent with Detroit, joining forces with one-time rival Probert. He played in seven games for the Wings, then left pro hockey for two seasons before returning in 1994-95 with Los Angeles. Over two seasons with the Kings Crowder played in 44 games, scoring two goals and four points while accumulating 141 penalty minutes.

1996-97 would be Crowder’s final season in the NHL, playing 30 games with the Vancouver Canucks. The following season he went overseas to play in Germany, with his final season of 1998-99 split between Great Britain and the AHL.

In 6 NHL seasons, Crowder played in 150 games, scoring nine goals and 16 points. He also racked up 433 penalty minutes and 35 career fights. Crowder briefly returned to pro hockey with four games during the 2002-03 season in the fight-filled LNAH. From 2014-17 he was the director of player development for the Calgary Flames.

Crowder transitioned from hockey to politics in 2018, earning the Progressive Conservation party nomination for the Ontario provincial election in his hometown of Sudbury; he finished second. Later that year Crowder ran for mayor of Sudbury, finishing fifth.

YouTube clip: video of Crowder’s four career fights versus Bob Probert. Crowder wins the first one decisively, cutting Probert open. The next two happen in the first game between the two after Crowder’s first victory, with the fourth and final bout in 1997 between Probert’s Blackhawks and Crowder’s Canucks.

Card 343 - Jim Hrivnak

A goaltender, Hrivnak was drafted 61st overall by Washington in the 1986 draft. A freshman at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, he played three more seasons with the Warriors before turning pro in the 1989-90 season with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL.

Hrivnak’s next three seasons were split between Baltimore and Washington, playing 32 games with the Caps and posting a 15-10-1 record. Being named a second team AHL all-star in 1990 didn’t help, as Hrivnak was stuck behind Don Beaupre as starter and Bob Mason, then Mike Liut, at backup.

For the 1992-93 season Hrivnak became Beaupre’s backup, playing in 27 games, winning 13. In March of that season he was traded to Winnipeg with a second round pick for fellow tender Rick Tabaracci. Hrivnak played three games with the Jets, winning two, in what would the most successful season of his NHL career.

July 1993 saw him traded to St. Louis for a draft pick, playing 23 games with the Blues, posting a 4-10-0 record. From 1994 to 1996 Hrivnak played in the North American minors, before touring to Europe to play in England, Germany and Finland between 1996 and 2001. Hrivnak returned to hockey, playing amateur Senior A in Quebec in 2003-04.

In 5 NHL seasons, Hrivnak played in 85 games, posting a 34-30-3 record, .877 save percentage and 3.73 goals against average.

YouTube clip: according to this video narrated by Doc Emrick, making the save of the year for the 1993-94 season, stoning the Mighty Ducks’ Garry Valk.

Card 344 - Eric Weinrich

A defenceman, Weinrich was drafted 32nd overall by New Jersey in 1985 out of high school in Maine. He would play the next three seasons for the University of Maine Black Bears, including a stint in 1987-88 with the US Olympic team and trip to the 1988 Olympics.

Weinrich turned pro in 1988-89, playing two full seasons with Utica in AHL while also appearing in 21 games with New Jersey. He was named best defenceman and a first team all-star in the AHL in 1990.

In his true rookie season of 1990-91, Weinrich scored four goals and 38 points and was named to the all-rookie team. He played one more season with the Devils before a trade sent him to Hartford in the summer 1992 with Sean Burke for Bobby Holik and a draft pick (used to select Jay Pandolfo). In one full season with the Whalers, Weinrich scored seven goals for a second straight season. Early the next season he was traded to Chicago in a four player swap. Over the next six seasons with the Blackhawks (1993 to 1998), Weinrich would play a steady middle pair defensive role and be named an assistant captain for the 1997-98 season.

November 1998 saw Weinrich traded to Montreal in a six-player swap. He played three seasons with the Habs before a trade in February 2001 to Boston for Patrick Traverse; split between Montreal and Boston during the 2000-01 season, Weinrich scored 31 points, the fifth and final time he broke the 30 point barrier. He suited up in 22 games for the Bruins, joining Philadelphia as a free agent the following season.

Weinrich played parts of three seasons with the Flyers before a trade to St. Louis in 2004 for a draft pick. He returned to the Blues after the 2004-05 lockout, playing 59 games before a trade to Vancouver. Weinrich’s 16 games with the Canucks would be the final of his NHL career, as he retired in August 2006. The retirement was short-lived, with Weinrich returning to the ice as a player-coach with Portland of the AHL. He hung up the skates for good after the 2007-08 season, becoming a full-time assistant coach with the Pirates.

In 17 NHL seasons, Weinrich played in 1157 games, scoring 70 goals and 388 points. A mainstay for Team USA internationally, he played in nine world championships (captaining the squad in 1998, and winning bronze in 2004), the 1992 Canada Cup and the 2005 World Cup of Hockey. In 2001 he left Portland to become director of player development and a pro scout with the Buffalo Sabres, a role he held until 2015 when he was hired as a development coach with his former team New Jersey, a role he holds to this day.

YouTube clip: fighting Vancouver’s Bill Muckalt during his time with Montreal. The fight occurs almost 2 minutes after a stoppage in play resulting from a wrestling match between the two, initially broken up by goalie Jeff Hackett.

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