With the weather getting colder, I’m reminded of one iconic game with subzero temperatures on a frozen field. Mind you, Lambeau Field was supposed to be heated, but the “electric” blanket designed for this task failed miserably during the Ice Bowl of 1967.
The the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Green Bay Packers was so different than any previous game. We had played in cool weather, but not anything close to arctic conditions like this.
Due to the freezing Wisconsin weather, Vince Lombardi, the Packers’ general manager and head coach, purchased what was called an “electric blanket” and had it installed six inches beneath Lambeau field to heat the surface and melt the ice. In this grid, the coils were a foot apart and went the length of the field. A thermostat controlled it all, and boy oh boy, I wished it had worked!
Despite the cost $80,000 (close to $700,000 in today’s rates), the electric grid did not prevent the field from freezing. The blanket failed, which is a story in itself. Or… actually several stories told by contributors in my book! Mel Renfro, the late Dan Reeves, Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Walt Garrison, and John Niland weigh in. These are the actual players, along with Gil Brandt, who experienced the action and survived frostbite conditions, and very kindly share unforgettable memories of the game, the plays, weather-related injuries, our defeat against the Green Bay Packers, and much more.
Since the Packers were used to playing on frozen fields — and we weren’t — it was just an incredible situation and the closest thing to hell on ice. The game will forever be “frozen in time,” and below is a recent Dallas Morning News article that includes an interview about my own Ice Bowl reflections.
Cowboys tight end Pettis Norman recalls ‘unbelievable experience’ playing Packers in Ice Bowl
The former Cowboys tight end, who’s now written his autobiography, says nothing came close to playing in that bitter cold New Year’s Eve game.
Pettis Norman, 82, has written his autobiography, The Pettis Norman Story: A Journey through the Cotton Fields, to the Super Bowl, and into Servant Leadership. Norman, who played tight end for the Dallas Cowboys from 1962-70, then played for the San Diego Chargers from 1971-73. He has many memories from those years but none so vivid as the the infamous Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on New Year’s Eve in 1967, when the temperature sank to minus-13 degrees with a minus-33 wind chill factor.
Norman says nothing in football ever came close to that experience.
“I’ll never forget the intensity of the hard hits and sub-zero cold, a field frozen as hard as concrete, the effects of the extreme conditions, the failure of the electric grid, hot chocolate and coffee freezing within minutes and the emotions of the game,” he said.
“Some players had injuries to their mouths and noses that did not bleed due to sub-zero temperatures.
“As we left Green Bay having lost, I reflected on the battle we had just endured. I reflected on [Bart Starr’s] unbelievable last-seconds quarterback sneak. Several players had damaged lungs from the bitter cold and others almost lost their toes.
“All in all, the Ice Bowl is the most incredible game I ever played, an unbelievable experience that I’ve never forgotten. I look back and wonder how I got through it. I tell players now, ‘Be thankful you don’t have to play in those conditions.’ “
I hope you enjoy the entire Ice Bowl story in my autobiography — The Pettis Norman Story: From the Cotton Fields to the Cotton Bowl and into Servant Leadership. The two Ice Bowl chapters are an unforgettable dose of adrenaline!