Fun Facts About NFL’s “Ice Bowl”
January 1, 1967 at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
What was the significance of the game?
What was the final score?
What 2 famous future NFL Hall of Fame coaches were pitted against each other?
Tom Landry (Cowboys) and Vince Lombardi (Packers)
The game became known as the “Ice Bowl” because the field was a sheet of ice and the air temperature at game time was -13 Fahrenheit. What extraordinary measure had been used to try to keep the field playable?
Warming it with an underground electric heating grid. Packer coach Vince Lombardi had purchased a system of heating coils that were implanted six inches under the field. The coils were intended to keep the ground warm enough to ward off freezing. In “When Pride Still Mattered,” a biography of Lombardi, author Dave Maraniss suggested that the problem came about because of the tarpaulin covering the field. The warm air under the tarp formed condensation, which froze immediately upon exposure to the extremely cold air.
How did Cowboy receiver Bob Hayes help the Packer defense throughout the game?
He kept his hands in his pants. Varying accounts exist of whether Hayes kept his hands in his pants only when the Cowboys were running the ball, or for all plays for which he wasn’t the receiver. But whatever the account, Hayes was the Cowboys’ best receiver, he frequently kept his hands in his pants, and this would let the Packer defense know they didn’t need to worry about him for the play.
How cold were conditions that day?
All of these (CBS sportscaster Frank Gifford said, “I think I’ll take another bite of my coffee”, An official tore the skin off his lip when his metal whistle froze to it, The halftime show was cancelled when the marching band scheduled to play found that its instruments were unplayable). After several officials had problems with their whistles, the officiating crew stopped using them and relied only on voice commands. At least Gifford was in a broadcast booth, and the halftime musicians got to go home early.
Which uncharacteristic miscues by the Packers led to the first 10 points for the Cowboys?
Fumbles. The warm-weather Cowboys eventually adjusted to the cold better than the Packers did. After Green Bay had built a 14-0 lead on two Bart Starr passes to Boyd Dowler, the Cowboys’ George Andrie recovered a Starr fumble and ran it seven yards for the Cowboys’ first touchdown. Later in the second quarter, the Packers’ Willie Wood fumbled a punt and the Cowboys recovered, leading to a field goal that sent them into the warm locker room at halftime trailing only 14-10.
How did Cowboys’ halfback Dan Reeves figure in the touchdown that put his team ahead 17-14?
He threw a pass for the touchdown. Reeves, later a successful NFL coach, threw a 50-yard halfback option pass to Lance Rentzel in the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 17-14 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
A month after the game, Vince Lombardi announced his retirement from coaching, making this the last game he coached in Green Bay. For what Packer player was this the last game he played in Green Bay?
Fuzzy Thurston. After playing for two seasons for the Baltimore Colts, Thurston played the remainder of his NFL career from 1959-67, for Green Bay. Hornung was picked up from Green Bay by New Orleans in the 1967 expansion draft, but retired before ever playing for the Saints. Kramer and Starr retired from the Packers and the NFL in 1968 and 1971 respectively. Besides Thurston, this was also the last game in Green Bay for receiver Max McGee and kicker Don Chandler, two other players who played vital roles in the Packers’ title teams.
The Packers won the game on Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak. The play called in the huddle was “31 Wedge.” As the “31 Wedge” play was written, who was intended to carry the ball?
Chuck Mercein. The play was designed to be a handoff to Mercein. This is another moment from the Ice Bowl for which accounts differ as to what actually happened. David Maraniss writes in, “When Pride Still Mattered”, that Starr fearing Mercein slipping before he could take the ball, decided to keep the ball himself but didn’t tell anyone else. Accounts by Jerry Kramer and others described Starr announcing a quarterback sneak in the huddle. No matter what though, as written in the Packers’ playbook, the “31 Wedge” play was designed to be a handoff to the fullback, who on that play was Mercein.
In the famous photograph of Bart Starr’s winning touchdown, Chuck Mercein can be seen with both hands in the air. He later said that he was not signaling a touchdown. Why did he say his hands were in the air?
To show that he did not push Starr. It would have been illegal to assist Starr by pushing him, so Mercein threw his hands in the air as if to say “look ref, no hands!”
What was later shown to have happened on Starr’s touchdown that could have changed the game’s outcome?
Jerry Kramer was offside. In a frame by frame analysis of that play, Kramer can be seen lifting his hand while the ball remains on the ground awaiting the snap. Even Kramer wrote “I wouldn’t swear that I wasn’t actually offside on the play.” Many Packer fans argue though that Donnie Anderson made it into the end zone on the previous play (the officials spotted the ball about two feet outside the end zone though). In fact, Jethro Pugh, the Cowboy blocked to make room for Starr’s score, supported this theory, saying that most of the Cowboys thought Anderson had scored.
The dramatic ending of the game helped provide the name of the book that Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap wrote, based on Kramer’s diary of the season. What was the book’s title?
Instant Replay. The replays of Starr’s touchdown, and of Kramer’s block on the play, helped make Kramer much more of a celebrity than linemen usually get to be. “Instant Replay” was released the following year and became one of the best-selling sports books in history. In the locker room after the game, Kramer dissuaded center Ken Bowman, also instrumental in the block, from joining him on camera for a television interview. Kramer argued that he was old and that Bowman’s day of glory would come. Little did Bowman realize how rare such recognition is for a center, or that after that season’s Super Bowl, he would play in exactly one more playoff game in his career.
VIDEO: The Story of the Ice Bowl