Fired Zamboni driver Al Sobotka, who was terminated in 2022, claims that Chris Ilitch ignored his plea for a 2nd chance.
Al Sobotka, the former iconic Zamboni driver for the Detroit Red Wings and building manager at Joe Louis Arena, was terminated in 2022 following allegations of urinating in the snow pit. The incident was witnessed by another employee who reported it to HR. Despite decades of loyal service, Sobotka says that his desperate plea for another chance sent to the personal cell phone of Red Wings owner and CEO Chris Ilitch went unanswered.
Fired zamboni driver Al Sobotka's text to Chris Ilitch was ignored
The incident took place in early 2022; Sobotka would admit to the incident but also would say it was due to a prostate issue that he was unable to hold it and walk to a nearby restroom.
Sobotka says that he sent a desperate plea to Chris Ilitch that went ignored.
“Chris, I'm sure you heard that I was terminated,” the text read. “I don't think I deserve it. After 50 seasons of hard work, countless hours, holidays, missing out with the family … I would hope you had it in your heart for another chance.”
“I would love to go (out) on my own and retire. I have much respect for you and your family … I'm begging you, this is killing me.”
In a 2022 deposition, Ilitch stated that he refers personal communication from fired employees to HR and that he agrees with the decision to fire the longtime employee, saying “I rely on our HR professionals” and “business leaders”.
“I agreed with the decision that was made,” he continued. “Al's behavior in this instance was highly, highly inappropriate.
Sobotka maintains his misconduct was “not that bad”
Sobotka maintains that his actions weren't serious enough to warrant termination and implied that he was let go due to his age.
“What I did is really not that bad,” Sobotka said. “I'm very disappointed. I was always loyal to them. I never had any issues with the (Ilitch) family. Anything I was ever asked to do I did it — and more.”
However, attorneys for Olympia Entertainment maintain that their company can terminate an employee without warning or supplemental discipline.
“The company is not required to provide any form of progressive discipline, and … has the right to terminate a colleague for violation of any of its company policies, or any other lawful reason, at any time, even for a first offense,” they argued in a November 15 court filing.
The case is now before the Michigan Court of Appeals.
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Al Sobotka, the former Zamboni driver for the Detroit Red Wings with over five decades of service, was terminated in 2022 due to an incident where he allegedly urinated in a drain in the room where the Zambonis are parked.
- Sobotka admitted to the incident but maintained that his actions weren't enough to warrant an immediate termination, and also filed suit for wrongful termination
- He also says that a personal plea to Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment CEO Chris Ilitch went ignored
Bottom Line: Should Al get a second chance?
The news of Al Sobotka's firing elicited a divided response from fans. Some were angered by the decision, considering his long-standing service to the team, while others felt that his actions, specifically urinating in the open within close proximity of another employee, warranted termination.
The debate centers on whether a warning should have been given, considering his extensive tenure with the team, or if the termination was the appropriate course of action.