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

Sobotka accuses Red Wings of discrimination

Building operations manager for Olympia Entertainment signs Al Sobotka walks the red carpet prior to the final game at Joe Louis Arena between New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wingson April 9, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus, 2017 Getty images)

DETROIT – Longtime Zamboni driver Al Sobotka was fired by the Detroit Red Wings because he urinated into an ice pit while working, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Sobotka, 68, was best known for twirling an octopus to help ignite crowds during playoff games at Joe Louis Arena. He was fired by the Red Wings on Feb. 17.

On Wednesday (April 20), Sobotka filed a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against because of his age and a medical condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy, which causes sudden and uncontrollable urges to urinate.

Click here to read more from the lawsuit.

On Feb. 2, after he was done cleaning the ice in the main rink, Sobotka experienced an “uncontrollable urge to urinate due to his BPH condition,” according to the lawsuit.

He had just moved the Zamboni into the garage, which contains a pit where ice is unloaded and drained before it runs into the sewer, the lawsuit states. The area is not open to the public, and only the all-male ice crew has access, according to the lawsuit.

“To access a restroom, (Sobotka) would have had to exit the garage and walk 60-70 feet to a public restroom,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, standing behind two Zambonis and seeing no one around, he urinated into the pit, which contained water to be drained.”

Another employee who worked under Sobotka witnessed the incident and reported him to management, the lawsuit says.

He was called into a meeting Feb. 4 and admitted that he had urinated into the pit, the lawsuit says. He was placed under investigation and suspended for a week, it says.

On Feb. 17, he received a call from the vice president of human resources, as well as the vice president of venue operations, Tim Badgett. They told him he was being terminated for “bad judgement,” according to the lawsuit.

Sobotka says he was never interviewed as part of the investigation. The lawsuit states he turned down a “confidential” agreement that included a small payment and a non-disparagement provision.

“(Sobotka)’s age was at least one determining factor in (the) decision to treat (him) differently, with respect to the conditions of his employment and termination,” the lawsuit reads.

You can view the full lawsuit below.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.