Ex-Detroit Red Wings Zamboni driver Al Sobotka fired for peeing into drain

Detroit Free Press

A lawsuit has laid bare the reason Al Sobotka no longer drives a Zamboni for the Detroit Red Wings: He got caught peeing into a drain and was seen by another employee.

Sobotka’s lawyers state in the case filed in Wayne County Circuit Court that Sobotka’s rights were violated under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, arguing that Sobotka was discriminated against on the basis of his age (68) and disability.

According to the lawsuit, Sobotka has been diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy, which causes a frequent and uncontrollable need to urinate.

PLAYING OUT THE STRING: Think it doesn’t matter if Detroit Red Wings win any more? Here’s why it does

On Feb. 2, Sobotka drove one of the Zamboni machines into its garage at Little Caesars Arena after cleaning the ice at the main rink. Sobotka, according to the lawsuit, experienced at uncontrollable urge to urinate. The nearest facility was 60-70 feet away, so instead, Sobotka used one of the drains that lead into a sewer, designed to handle the ice runoff from Zamboni machines. The area is closed to the public, and access limited to the all-male ice crew.

Sobotka was urinating between two Zambonis when he was seen by a male employee.

Two days later, Sobotka was called into a meeting with his supervisor and a human resources representative.  Initially suspended for a week, Sobotka was terminated Feb. 17.

Sobotka’s legal team is seeking compensatory damages.

[ Not a digital subscriber to the Free Press? Your contribution makes our work possible. Subscribe here for just $1 for six months. ]

Sobotka was 17 when he got a job at Olympia Stadium in 1971, 11 years before Bruce Norris sold the Wings to Mike and Marian Ilitch. Sobotka attended Detroit Northwestern and graduated from Denby High. After high school, neighborhood friends helped him get hired at Olympia Stadium, where he worked on the cleanup crew. He started on the midnight shift and moved to the day shift, and worked his way up to building operations manager at Cobo Hall. Sobotka eventually moved into an office in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena, from where he oversaw a crew of about 70 people.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

Articles You May Like

Red Wings Should Pursue Trade For Patrik Laine
Red Wings 2024 Draft Targets: 5 Defensemen
NHL Rumors: Golden Knights, Red Wings, Ducks, Senators, Coyotes
The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Top Priority of 2024 Offseason
Detroit Red Wings’ 2024 First-Round Draft Targets – Liam Greentree

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *