The $24-million sportsplex expansion to Tecumseh Arena will include a cardiac wellness and rehabilitation centre named after the late NHL legend Bob Probert, Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara announced to a cheering crowd of over 1,500 motorcyclists Sunday.
To date, the annual Bob Probert Ride has raised almost $1 million to support cardiac care in Windsor and Essex County through programs and services offered at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare. The east-end facility will be the third satellite cardiac centre the event has financially supported. The existing two centres are housed at HDGH’s home base on Prince Road and within Windsor Regional Hospital’s Ouellette campus.
The memorial ride, which began eight years ago after the former Detroit Red Wing died of a heart attack at age 45, raised over $100,000 this year alone.
Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of HDGH, said the hospital organization has been planning the east-end centre for about three years.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how to take services out of the hospital into the community, and this partnership and the fundraising that the Probert family have been doing has allowed us to do our first major expansion since we took on Prince Road,” said Kaffer, referring to the hospital’s move to the Prince Road site from Ouellette five years ago.
The Tecumseh centre is the first announcement of several HDGH has planned, according to Kaffer, who brought her three young grandchildren on Sunday to feel the motorcycles shake the ground underfoot. She described this centre as an anchor program from which the organization intends to build.
Plans for the new centre are still being finalized with the Town of Tecumseh, so a groundbreaking date has yet to be determined. The project is estimated to take between 16 and 18 months to complete. Financial details of the project were unavailable because it’s so early in the planning stage.
Bill Marra, vice-president of HDGH, said he’s thrilled the ride funds will continue to be invested in cardiac services.
“We’re honouring Bob’s memory, but more importantly we’re giving people an opportunity to create a healthier lifestyle, live longer, and get through what is often a catastrophic event,” said Marra.
Probert’s widow, Dani Probert, organizes the event each year. She said she’s proud of the amount of money raised so far in memory of her late husband.
“I love talking about Bob every day, his stories, his laugh,” she said. “But this is on an unbelievable platform…. We get to share stories and have good laughs and think about him, remember him, knowing that he loved to ride and doing this for a good cause.”
This year’s two road captains were former NHL player Scott Parker, and Detroit radio personality Meltdown.
Parker said he didn’t know Probert personally, but added that early in his career he was fortunate enough to receive a few punches from the legendary enforcer.
“I know he hits really hard,” Parker said with a smile. Parker once goaded Probert, who was a more experienced player, into a fight in 1999. Parker said he had to ask Probert to fight several times throughout the game before the veteran decided to drop the gloves.
“It’s sad that he’s gone. He’s definitely one of those guys you’d want to sit down with and be able to talk about the old days. You could still learn from a guy like that years down the road.”
When the Probert family asked Parker to captain the ride, he agreed within seconds.
“We’ve been wanting to be a part of this ride for years, and we’re fortunate enough to do it now.”