Motorcycle ride raises $100K in memory of NHL legend Bob Probert

The hundreds of bikes lined up on Ambassador Drive were enough to bring tears to Dani Probert’s eyes.

Every motorcycle stretching around the Thunder Road Harley Davidson — and the more than 1,000 riders — represented emotional and monetary support in honour of the late NHL enforcer Bob Probert.

That support translated into more than $100,000 raised for cardiac care in Windsor-Essex before bikers even revved their engines Sunday morning at the seventh annual Bob Probert Ride.

Bob Probert’s surviving family — his wife Dani, his children Brogan, Tierney, Jack and Declyn, his mother Theresa and father-in-law Jim — are the driving force behind the ride.

“There’s no words,” Dani Probert said. “There really are no words for this. It’s overwhelming. The week leading up, there’s so much work. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride coming up, just to get here.

Bob Probert died of a heart attack in 2010 at the age of 45. He left behind his family and an unmatched legacy in the NHL as an enforcer with hockey skills who played for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sunday marked the seventh year of the event. Sponsor contributions and the June 2 Probert Classic, organized by Bob’s daughter Tierney, raised $23,000.

In the previous six years, riders raised a combined $647,000.

Previous Bob Probert Rides raised funds for an Ouellette Avenue angioplasty suite, according to Bill Marra, vice president of external affairs at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and executive director of the Changing Lives Together Foundation.

The 2017 proceeds will be directed towards satellite locations to create greater access to cardiac services in Windsor-Essex. Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare sees 25,000 patients a year in its cardiac and pulmonary rehab program.

“It’s really about the community coming together, taking care of our own,” Marra said. “It’s really our women, our men, our fathers, our moms. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada. So it’s incredibly important that we invest in programs and enhance our services.

“And our goal is to create some satellite locations, to make it easier to get access to services.”

Sunday attracted a mix of supporters — riders, current and former hockey players, union members and people whose lives have been touched by cardiac events. Dave Hutchison, a former NHL player and friend of Bob Probert, was ride captain.

LaSalle native and Edmonton Oilers player Zack Kassian called Bob Probert a legend.

“I’ve been around the league for six, seven years now,” Kassian said. “It’s one of those things where, when it comes to charity and helping people out, the hockey community really sticks together and helps each other out in that regard.

“To have ex-players, current players here, just shows that the hockey community is very tight and close.”

Kassian said he didn’t grow up in a biking family, but got into motorbikes about six years ago.

“I find it relaxing,” he said. “It’s something that I can get on and slowly unwind — it’s just me and the road.”

Sunday’s sunny and warm weather made for a perfect riding day and helped bring out crowds, Dani Probert said. The final total for the 2017 Bob Probert Ride will be announced in coming weeks.

“Whether you’re a hockey fan, or you just love to ride or you’ve experienced a cardiac incident in your family or with yourself — they’re all put together,” Probert said.

“Everyone gets together. Windsor’s such a great community. When it comes to fundraising, and giving back and participating, we rock. Let’s face it, we do.”

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