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The Malik Report

What Al Sobotka (and other non-player NHL luminaries) did during the lockout

Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneueve took an intriguing tack in terms of "catching up" with famous hockey names by speaking to Boston Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt, Philadelphia Flyers PA announcer Lou Nolan, Nashville Predators play-by-play annoncer Pete Weber, Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates and somebody whose name Cazeneueve spells as "Al Sabotka" about a certain Joe Louis Arena's building manager's activities when the Detroit Red Wings weren't skating on the ice Al Sobotka tends to so meticulously. Here's what Al did during the lockout:

The Zamboni Driver: Al Sobotka, Detroit Red Wings

Al Sobotka, 59, is the building operations manager at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena and the Zamboni driver at Red Wings' games. During his 41 years with the team he has become as essential to the games as the ice he manages,

but he is most often recognized for cleaning up and then twirling overhead the many octopi that fans hurl onto the ice at playoff time. "It's become part of the show," he says modestly.

The show has endured, despite the lockout. Without NHL hockey, the Joe hosted youth tournaments, events for season-ticket holders, corporate parties, and scheduled concerts and college hockey games. Sobotka oversees arena details from painting to seat repair and also cooks monthly barbecues for the team. Each meal requires 36 slabs of ribs with his spice rub, 25 pounds of burgers, eight chickens and 40 links of Cajun chicken sausage. With a full plate of responsibilities, Sobotka remained a full-time employee along with a dozen of the Wings' building staff, including electricians and engineers. "I felt bad for the (part-time) concession workers and cleanup guys," he says. "They are like family."

Sobotka earned high praise when the 1994-95 lockout forced a late start to the Stanley Cup Final in Detroit, where outside temperatures hit 98 degrees. "We used de-humidifiers and supplemental air on both ends of the arena," he says. "The players were surprised at how well the ice held up. We can do the same this year if we have to."


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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.