Frozen in time

While most of the ubiquitous stories of the Ice Bowl come from the increasing number of fans who claim to have been there, the best stories come from under the pile.

Fullback Chuck Mercein, for instance, frozen in time (and probably in fact) lay on top of the pile signaling touchdown with two outstretched arms. The Yale graduate and retired Wall Street trader says he was not, in fact, signaling touchdown at all.

I interviewed him years ago for a series of “Where are they now” stories I wrote about the Packers and he said he lifted his arms at that very moment to show the refs that he had not pushed quarterback Bart Starr into the end zone, which would have resulted in a penalty and a far less dramatic end to the 1967 NFL championship game.

With a game-time temperature of -15 and the wind making it feel 30 degrees cooler, the game would have been memorable for the weather alone. Add to that the drama of the famous 31 wedge play that gave Green Bay the lead with 16 seconds left to play and you have a game story every single member of those teams would be asked about for the next 50 years.

Down three with no timeouts left, the Packers faced third and goal. Coach Lombardi’s decision to run the ball rather than pass, which would have stopped the clock, remains one of the gutsier calls in football history.

“I didn’t figure all those people up there in the stands could take the cold for an overtime game,” Coach Lombardi said. “You can’t say I’m always without compassion.”

The Packers won the game 21-17. Relying on rudimentary cold-weather gear (Thinsulate was not even invented until 1979) some players still bear the frost bite scars of that legendary game and it took some time for them to recover.

Fortunately, they had two weeks to catch their breath and a game-time temperature swing of some 90 degrees to enjoy. The Packers went on to beat Oakland 33-14 in Super Bowl II.

1967-12-31-Ice Bowl-25
Page 35 from the 1967 NFL Championship program included this gracious thank you to the Green Bay fans signed by every player on the team.
1967-12-31-Ice Bowl-13
Page 13 of the program included this ad for Mainline Industrial Distributors, a company my dad worked for during the off-season.
Ice bowl
An iconic photo of a memorable game.
On the field at Lambeau
The 25th reunion of the Ice Bowl (and Super Bowl championship) included the on-field introduction of these players — left to right, Ron Kostelnik, Doug Hart, Herb Adderley, Bob Jeter, Lee Roy Caffey, Coach Phil Bengston, Ray Nitschke, Jim Flanigan, Jim Weatherwax, Willie Wood, Willie Davis and Dave Robinson
Ron Kostelnik Freeze Frame
A freeze frame of a video celebrating the famous Ice Bowl.

View it here:

For a definitive look at the Ice Bowl and the 1967 Super Bowl season, read Jerry Kramer's book Instant Replay -- a well-written sports book that never gets old.
For a definitive look at the Ice Bowl and the 1967 Super Bowl season, read Jerry Kramer’s book Instant Replay — a well-written sports story that never gets old.

5 thoughts on “Frozen in time

  1. Oh Molly I so love your stories. I remember the Ice Bowl well, it was the same year my brother was killed in Viet Nam. My dad did attend as we watched from our warm seats at home. I hope Charlie told you who I was & that I was following you. I don’t want you to think I’m a stalker. Just stop in at Starbucks when your in the are & ask for KZ & I’ll buy you a beverage.

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