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Red Wings Zamboni driver, a fan favorite, sues over firing

Red Wings Zamboni driver

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 09: Zamboni driver Al Sobotka twirls an octopus that was thrown on the ice during a stoppage of play in an NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils at Joe Louis Arena on April 9, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

DETROIT — A popular Zamboni driver for the Detroit Red Wings said he was dismissed for urinating in a drain.

Al Sobotka filed a discrimination lawsuit this week against Olympia Entertainment, two months after he was fired, following 51 years with the Red Wings. His lawyer said he has a health condition that causes him to frequently urinate.

Sobotka, 68, couldn’t get to a restroom so he urinated in a drain that carries ice runoff from the Zamboni machines at Little Caesars Arena. Someone saw him and apparently reported it in February.

“He thought no one was in the building,” attorney Deborah Gordon said. “He was given no warning, no second chance.”

Olympia Entertainment said it wouldn’t comment on a legal matter.

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.

Gordon said management was aware of Sobotka’s prostate problem.

“I was shocked,” Sobotka told WDIV-TV, referring to his dismissal. “I didn’t know what to say. Heartbroken, yes.”