An FYI for those of you who live elsewhere: Detroit is famous for many things. Aretha, Stevie Wonder, square pizza, the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise … and Al Sobotka. An employee of the Red Wings since 1971, Sobotka’s fame is multifaceted — he gathers up the octopi that the hockey team’s fans have thrown on the ice for 65 years, and is the world’ foremost octopus twirler; he’s the building manager of Little Caesars Arena and the longtime manager of the Joe Louis Arena it replaces; and the team’s mascot Al the Octopus is named after him.
And Sobotka drives the Zamboni at Red Wings games — he even came in second, with 97,261 votes, in the Zamboni company’s Driver of the Year competition years ago. (You didn’t know there was a Zamboni Driver of the Year? And you call yourself a motorsports fan.)
Now, Sobotka may be gunning to win that Driver of the Year trophy outright: Tuesday, he drove a Red Wings Zamboni out on the open road, down the aforementioned Woodward Avenue. Photos went out on social media.
It’s unclear what he was doing, but among the likely explanations: He decided to move the machine from the old arena to the new one. It was a stunt to gain publicity for the team or arena. (Success!) He was road-testing a repair. Or, he was just having fun.
Here’s a great profile of Al Sobotka in the Detroit Free Press, in case you’re intrigued by the guy.
All this reminds us of a very special Christmas season, in 2016, when Jesse Myshak of Alberta man piloted his recently purchased Zamboni into a Tim Hortons drive-thru for coffee. Yes, that’s how Canadian he is — he owns his own Zamboni.
“I figured I’d just drive it home,” Myshak told CBC News. “Guys at work were kind of laughing after I was driving home, [they said] to drive through Timmies and get a coffee.”
— Canada (@Canada) July 24, 2017
And going way back in the Autoblog files, there was a Minnesota case of suspected drunk driving aboard a Zamboni in 2012. We’re not sure they ever figured out if that was a chargeable offense, but unlike Jesse Myshak or Al Sobotka, that fellow wasn’t on a public road.