There has to be more to the story, but words got out that the Detroit Red Wings fired longtime operations manager Al Sobotka, long known to generations of Red Wings fans as the Zamboni driver who popularized swinging the octopus over his head to get Red Wings fans revved up

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The Detroit News reported the news, saying Sobotka had been with the team since 1971. He started at the old Olympia Stadium where the Wings played until their move to Joe Louis Arena in 1979. He worked the midnight shift, sweeping for $3.25 an hour. He eventually became a Zamboni driver and rose to Operations Manager. The Detroit Free Press says Sobotka's representative issued a statement: "I loved my 51 years with the Detroit Red Wings, and would have been happy to stay 51 more." The Red Wings had no comment.

The Octopus Tradition

The tradition of sneaking Octopi into the Olympia started in the 1950's. (Back then a team had to win eight playoff games to win the Stanley Cup, which conveniently matched the number of tentacles on an octopus.) But it was Sobotka who started swinging it around his head in the early 90's in a playoff series against Chicago.

The NHL came down on Sobotka and the Red Wings about it, but owner Mike Ilitch liked it and the league relented and the rest is. as they say, history.

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