Behind the scenes of the Ice Bowl

Ron Kostelnik Freeze Frame

My dad exhaled at the exact right moment on December 31, 1967 and we’ve been seeing his icy mug ever since.

Frozen breath frames his baby face in one of the more dramatic images from one of the NFL’s most dramatic games.

For nearly 50 years logical viewers have assumed Ron Kostelnik‘s pained expression reflected the icy conditions.


Born in Colver, Pennsylvania and raised among the snowy hills of mining country, my Dad rarely let Wisconsin winters affect his plans. He used to snow blow the entire block wearing nothing but a flannel shirt, jeans and a clumpy pair of boots.

Turns out my dad, a defensive tackle who lined up with Hall of Famers Henry Jordan and Willie Davis, and talented defensive end Lionel Aldridge, was nursing a painful case of gout.

“Your father and I had taken turns the night before standing next to your bed in the hospital,” my mom said. “We were up all night and the next morning your dad had the gout.”

The touching image of parental devotion — two young parents keeping vigil over their three-year old daughter, who was dehydrated from a nasty case of the flu, provides a warm contrast to the frosty Ice Bowl images.

“That’s so sweet,” I said. “Poor dad, though. I’ve seen his shoes. There’s not a lot of padding. And that field looked frozen solid.”

Mom shrugged.

“You know,” she said. “I don’t even remember being that cold. I had hand warmers and foot warmers on and one of those big orange things you see…”

“You were wearing a snow mobile suit?”

“Yes,” she laughed. “We used to get all dressed up for the games — high heels, teased hair, the whole bit. But, not for that game.”

“Wait a minute,” I said slowly. “Dad and you were so worried about me that you stayed all night in the hospital and took turns standing over my bed.”

“That’s right,” she said.

“Then Dad had to play the entire game with the gout.”

“Yes,” she said.

“And you watched the whole thing from the stands, wearing a giant orange snow mobile suit.”


“But, then, who stayed in the hospital with me?”

“Honestly, I have no idea,” she said.

Nice, right?

Still, the legend of the Ice Bowl rolls on…

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

But in the mighty Ice Bowl, Kostelnik had the gout.


(P.S. Here’s another Ice Bowl story making the rounds…)

And, here’s one of the many videos of the big game:

3 thoughts on “Behind the scenes of the Ice Bowl

  1. I remember many years of singing in the St. Therese church in Appleton. All of the boys in the choir would race to shake your Dad’s hand (he was easy to spot). You grew up a couple of blocks from my Grandparents and your dad would always have kind words for us as we went to toss the ball at Erb Park. Jerry Kramer once told me that Ron was able to take a bath in 4 inches of water. (Because once he got in that’s all the room that was left. :-). What a great love these men had for each other! Thanks for re-kindling the memories!!!

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