‘I am crushed’: Beloved Red Wings Zamboni driver Al Sobotka goes 1-on-1 with Bernie Smilovitz

Sobotka is still in shock that he was let go by the organization

Al Sobotka says he was wrongly fired because a medical condition forced him to urinate in an ice pit at Little Caesars Arena. Now he's suing Olympia entertainment over his firing, and he's only talking about it Wednesday (April 20) to Bernie Smilovitz, who sat down with him this afternoon along with his Attorney Deborah Gordon.

DETROITAl Sobotka says he was wrongly fired because a medical condition forced him to urinate in an ice pit at Little Caesars Arena.

Now he’s suing Olympia entertainment over his firing, and he’s only talking about it Wednesday (April 20) to Bernie Smilovitz, who sat down with him this afternoon along with his Attorney Deborah Gordon.

After 51 years of service, Olympia Entertainment would not overlook the indiscretion and fired him. Now Sobotka is fighting back.

Read: Longtime Zamboni driver Al Sobotka sues Detroit Red Wings over termination

Sobotka is an icon in the City of Detroit. He has spent 51 years of his life serving the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment. Then one day at Little Caesars Arena, Sobotka had to urinate.

Sobotka has a prostate condition known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH, and sometimes he can’t wait to use the bathroom. So he privately urinated behind two Zambonis out of the view of anyone. Or so he thought, and a few days later, he was suspended and then fired.

“I am crushed,” said Sobotka. “It’s like a bomb dropped on you that every morning you get up, you have nowhere to go now; before you get there by 8 p.m. or before 6 p.m. on different days, you know whatever it was, now I just mope around the house. I’m getting tired of watching TV.”

“There is no way to replace what his career, his income, the world he had as that is irreplaceable,” said Gordon. “Not many people have a job that is truly irreplaceable, and Al did.”

Sobotka spent the majority of his life with the Red Wings.

Read: Zamboni driver Al Sobotka fired by Detroit Red Wings for urinating into ice pit, lawsuit says

After names like Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman, it wouldn’t be too long before Sobotka’s name surfaced in the discussion. But his firing by his longtime employer has crushed his spirit.

“I’m kind of embarrassed for what I did,” Sobotka said. “I have a hard time sleeping. I took a sleeping pill from my wife, who has a sleeping condition, and I couldn’t sleep with that either.”

Sobotka joined the Red Wings when he was 17 years old. He came to Detroit from Poland, and the Red Wings were his entire life.

Sobotka is still in shock that he was let go by the organization.

“I rarely call people asking them to take my clients back,” Gordon said. “Because of what happened, it’s usually not going to work, but this is like ‘let’s just put the genie back in the bottle and continue on’ I mean, come on.”

If the Red Wings reach out to him and offer him his job back, Sobotka said he would return without any hesitation.

Local 4 News called Olympia Entertainment and did not receive a callback.

Attorney Gordon also reached out to Olympia Entertainment to try to retrieve Sobotka’s job with the organization, and they responded by saying that the ship had already sailed.


About the Authors:

Bernie brings sports to Metro Detroit. You can catch him on Local 4 News weekdays at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.