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Red Wings fire Zamboni driver for relieving himself into drain at Little Caesars Arena, lawsuit claims

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A Detroit Red Wings Zamboni driver was fired after another male employee found him urinating into a drain at Little Caesars Arena, a lawsuit filed in Michigan’s Wayne County Circuit Court revealed. The driver, 68-year-old Al Sobotka, claims he was discriminated against because of his age and disability, which would be a violation of the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The incident occurred on Feb. 2, when Sobotka returned a Zamboni into its Little Caesars Arena garage after using it to clean the main rink’s ice. Sobotka – who claims to have been diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy, which causes frequent urination – then felt an urgent need to go, according to the lawsuit. Because the nearest facility was 60-70 feet away, Sobotka urinated into one of the drains that collects the Zambonis’ ice runoff. 

Sobotka was urinating between two Zambonis in the garage, which only the all-male ice crew have access to, when another employee spotted him. The 68-year-old met with his supervisor and a human resources representative two days later, leading to a week suspension. Sobotka was then fired on Feb. 17. 

Before his firing, Sobotka drove the Red Wings’ Zamboni for over 30 years and grew famous for swirling octopi around during the team’s playoff games. His beloved octopi handling led the Red Wings to name their mascot “Al the Octopus” in his honor. 

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Sobotka and his legal team are seeking compensatory damages in the lawsuit.  

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