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A longtime Zamboni driver for the Detroit Red Wings was fired back in February after he was seen by another employee urinating in a drain at Little Caesars Arena, a lawsuit revealed this week.
Al Sobotka, who first began working at Olympia Stadium in 1971 as a member of the cleanup crew, has filed a lawsuit against Olympia Entertainment claiming he was discriminated against because of his age and disability in his Feb. 17 termination, the Detroit Free Press reported. The lawsuit was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Zamboni driver Al Sobotka resurfaces the ice prior to an NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Edmonton Oilers at Little Caesars Arena on November 9, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
According to the lawsuit, the 68-year-old Zamboni driver was diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy which causes him to frequently urinate. After cleaning the rink at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 2, Sobotka’s health condition caused him to use a drain for ice runoff because the nearest facility was too far.
He was spotted by a male employee and was initially suspended before being terminated more than two weeks later.
“I was shocked,” Sobotka told WDIV-TV, referring to his dismissal. “I didn’t know what to say. Heartbroken, yes.”
Al Sobotka Zamboni driver and building operations manager for Olympia Entertainment works on the #7 logo he embedded in the ice in honor of the late Detroit Red Wing and Hall of Fame great Ted Lindsay at Little Caesars Arena on March 7, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
One of Sobotka’s attorneys claimed that management was aware of his medical condition and that he believed he no one was in the building at the time.
Olympia Entertainment told The Associated Press it wouldn’t comment on a legal matter.
Building Operations Manager and Zamboni driver Al Sobotka twirls an octopus that was thrown on the ice on a stoppage in play during the final home game ever played at Joe Louis Arena on April 9, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Besides steering the Zamboni at Red Wings games, Sobotka was known for removing octopus thrown to the ice by fans, a Detroit tradition at Olympia Stadium, Joe Louis Arena and now Little Caesars Arena. Fans cheered as he twirled the sea creatures over his head.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.