Al Sobotka says Red Wings employee who turned him in for urinating in drain is new Zamboni driver

Sobotka suing Detroit Red Wings after termination

Al Sobotka speaks with Local 4's Bernie Smilovitz on April 20, 2022. (WDIV)

DETROITAl Sobotka said the Detroit Red Wings employee who turned him in for urinating in a drain while working has taken over as the team’s new Zamboni driver since Sobotka’s termination.

During an interview Wednesday with Local 4′s Bernie Smilovitz, Sobotka talked about the incident that led to his firing after 51 years with the organization.

ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW: Sobotka talks urinating incident, Red Wings firing, would he return?

According to a wrongful termination lawsuit he filed against the Red Wings, Sobotka is diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy, a condition that causes “a frequent and uncontrollable need to urinate.”

On Feb. 2, Sobotka moved the Zamboni back into the garage after cleaning and maintaining the ice in the main rink, the lawsuit states. There’s a pit in the garage where ice is unloaded and drained before it runs into the sewer, according to the lawsuit.

“(Sobotka) suddenly experienced an uncontrollable urge to urinate due to his BPH condition,” the lawsuit reads. “To access a restroom, (Sobotka) would have had to exit the garage and walk 60-70 feet to a public restroom. Instead, standing behind two Zambonis and seeing no one around, he urinated into the pit, which contained water to be drained.”

Sobotka said nobody should have been able to see him.

“It wasn’t between the Zambonis, it was in front of the one on the left where nobody -- if it was in between, people would see me,” Sobotka said. “The one on the left, if anybody walks by that room, they would not see me, so that should be clarified.

Al Sobotka speaks with Local 4's Bernie Smilovitz on April 20, 2022. (WDIV)

The lawsuit said the only people with access to the area is the all-male ice crew. One employee who works under Sobotka saw him urinating in the drain and reported it to management, according to the lawsuit.

“It was not (during a game). It was morning, 10 a.m., there’s nobody there,” Sobotka said. “There was three other guys there. Two went on break and the one stayed back and he was peeking around the corner or something and saw me and turned me in.”

Sobotka said the person who turned him in is the new Zamboni driver.

His attorney, Debra Gordon, said their focus, both in the lawsuit and during the interview, is on wrongdoing by the organization, not the worker who reported Sobotka.

She said the way Sobotka’s termination was handled left him feeling humiliated.

“Based on my experience, it does happen in corporate America that somebody decides that you’ve aged out, or they’ve got somebody they prefer, and that’s OK, but the way this was done -- if somebody thought Al, you know, let’s get the next guy going, or whatever, let him have a victory lap, literally and figuratively,” Gordon said. “Say goodbye to the fans. Say goodbye to the team in a nice dignified way that Al could have felt like, ‘Hey, it’s been a great run.’ But no, this has been humiliating, it’s been needlessly humiliating.”


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.