J. K. Sockey Hires Audio Correspondent
JKSockey.com correspondent Tommy Bossetti
As I sat in my front row seat at the blueline for the Thrashers first preseason game on Thursday, I noticed something strange across the ice. Popping up from behind the boards was a man with hair like Ric Flair and dressed like he had escaped from a mental hospital.
He would press his face against the glass for a few seconds before ducking back behind the dasher hoping he had not been noticed. This man, who I ran into in the bowels of Philips Arena following the game on Thursday night is Tommy Bossetti.
Known to Valley Forge Minutemen hockey fans in Oaks, PA as one-time Zamboni operator "Crazy Tommy," the flamboyant driver of the cumbersome ice-smoothing machine had for years created a fervor by high-fiving the crowd as he made his laps. Citing insurance concerns, rink management in 2004 ordered Bossetti to stop high-fiving and suspended him for three games. But upon his return, the crowd was expecting “Crazy Tommy’s” outstretched arm and thrust their hands in his path anyway, Bossetti said. He argued that the continued high-fiving which resulted in his suspension was purely self-defense. The ice rink did not sympathize and he was fired. While the dismissal order accused Bossetti of repeated safety violations, including driving the Zamboni while on medication, the order makes no mention of Bossetti's antagonistic history with management. In his 14 years there, Bossetti had initiated a bevy of complaints and lawsuits on behalf of himself and other employees.
Before this last dismissal, Bossetti had been fired seven times: once in 1995, five times in 1996, and once in 1999. Once a budding physicist, he has at times been homeless due to unemployment. Yet, repeatedly, he had fought his way back, ultimately working up to the position of ice specialist, which paid $8 an hour. Not only has he lost that income, but also the retirement benefits.
For the time being, he is working as an assistant with a local roller rink. The salary doesn't compare with his previous one, but "Daaii, it's enough to keep me going," he says. Bossetti seems happy in his new environment. But, he says, all he wants to do is get back on the ice.
"Daaaii, I know people will laugh, but I still maintain uuuh, I'm worth two goals a game," Bossetti said. "I consider myself an integral part of that work envi- daaaii... environ-daaaai… ice rink!"
Their loss is our gain, as Tommy will be making pre-game, post-game, and in-game call-ins from around the country.