GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — John Des Jardins braved the “Ice Bowl” bundled up in layers of sweatshirts tucked beneath a wool-lined buckskin vest.
Really, he was there at Lambeau Field at the coldest NFL game on record. He has a ticket framed on his wall in his office to prove it.
More than 50,000 fans attended the 1967 championship game won by the Green Bay Packers 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys on New Year’s Eve in 1967 at Lambeau Field. The temperature at game time had dipped to minus-13; the wind chill made it feel like minus-48.
Fifty years later, so many people claim to have defied the elements that day that DesJardins jokes it feels like a half-million fans were packed into Lambeau.
“I do say, ‘Well I have a ticket stub and a program,'” Des Jardins, an Outagamie County Circuit Court judge, joked in his chambers in Appleton adorned with Packers paraphernalia.
The memories remain vivid for Des Jardins, who was 15 at the time. It can be hard to forget sitting through such bone-chilling cold for so long.
For fans of the publicly-owned Packers, it’s like family history.
“Wisconsin fans, Wisconsin Packer-backers, are just incredibly involved in the team and so aware of our team and our era, and they’re just wonderful about supporting it still,” said offensive lineman Jerry Kramer , who threw a key block on Bart Starr ‘s game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 13 seconds left for a 21-17 victory.
“You don’t anticipate doing autograph sessions when you’re 81,” said Kramer, who still holds speaking engagements with teammates about the game.
At least Kramer and Starr could try to stay warm by moving on the field.
Patrick Webb spent most of the game standing in what was then the top of row of Section 130, which had a view down the South end zone goal line that Starr crossed for the winning score. His father was sitting in that section, but Webb didn’t arrive until midway through the first quarter.
Webb, then 16, said he just walked in after working at a parking lot down the street before the game. He didn’t move much once he arrived at Lambeau.
“It seemed cold, but it didn’t seem unbelievably cold until you started really standing here for a long time,” said Webb, who now has an office at the stadium as the executive director of the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District.
“When Bart went over, I jumped up and down and didn’t feel anything from my knees down,” Webb recounted recently from near the spot where he watched the Ice Bowl.
By that point, a few others could no longer stand the arctic chill.
“A good friend of mine, he missed the whole fourth quarter because he was in the bathroom trying to get warm,” said Tom Lemorande, who was 23 when he attended the game. The retired paper mill executive has worked with the sideline crew in recent years at Packers games.
Turnovers plagued the Packers and the offense had stalled. They trailed 17-14 after Dallas’ Dan Reeves connected with Lance Rentzel in the fourth quarter for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Lemorande brought a thermos of spiked coffee to try to stay warm. That last drive alone tested his nerves.
“Under the conditions, they had a long way to go … to be honest with you, I was practically holding my breath because I wondered ‘How are they ever going to score,'” he said.
After Starr’s touchdown, there was bone-chilling pandemonium.
“We were hugging everybody,” Des Jardins said. “Everybody we so padded, so you could only get your arms around so far.”
Des Jardins, like Lemorande now works the sidelines at games, holding the down-and-distance markers. He said that he has attended every home playoff game as either a fan or sideline worker.
Ties to the team run deep in his family. He shares the same name with his grandfather, who was a member of the Packers’ inaugural team in 1919. Des Jardins went to the Ice Bowl with his grandfather.
He returned home after that game feeling elated but eager to thaw out.
“I mean my toes were really cold. They felt like ice chunks,” he said. “I can remember the first thing I did when I got home was to fill the bathtub with hot water and put my feet in it — so that was very painful and vivid.”
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