Ice Bowl ’67: The game that changed the NFL
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – I was a twinkle in my parent’s eyes in 1967, still five years away from being brought into this world.
It wasn’t too many years after I was born in 1972 I remember hearing about the “Ice Bowl,” which happened 53 years ago Dec. 31, 1967.
Bart Starr, the famous Packers quarterback who snuck the ball in with 13 seconds remaining to secure the 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, passed away May 26, 2019.
I was fortunate enough to be at Lambeau Field Oct. 22, 2017, when Starr made his last trip to the stadium.
We all know the story of what happened that New Year’s Eve Day: The players endured 45 below zero windchills, which dropped to 65 below by game’s end.
Two weeks later, Green Bay defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, 35-14.
I traveled to the bookstore to find some literature on the subject and found “Ice Bowl ’67: The Packers, the Cowboys, and the Game that Changed the NFL.”
It’s written by Chuck Carlson, with a foreword by Dan Reeves.
Carlson worked for the Appleton Post-Crescent covering the Packers for a dozen years in the ‘90s and early 2000s.
He has written several books on the team and now lives in Lower Michigan and works at Albion College.
Dan Reeves, of course, was the Dallas running back during the Ice Bowl and later coached the Denver Broncos.
I spoke with Carlson on the phone about the book and his days covering Green Bay.
“I was lucky to cover the Packers when I did because it was fun,” said Carlson. “You could see the team was on the rise. I wasn’t a Packers fan growing up but a Redskins (now the Washington Football Team) fan because I grew up near Washington D.C. I hated the Packers because they were the dominant team and the gold standard in the ‘60s. Green Bay did it the right way and was consistent.”
Carlson said there’s no limit to what people want to read about the Packers.
“I hadn’t given it much thought to writing a book about the Ice Bowl,” he said. “Even though I haven’t covered the team in years, publishing companies keep contacting me to write more books because I know the history and sources.”
Carlson said he’s not much of a football fan now.
“I remember watching the Ice Bowl on television as an elementary student,” he said. “I was a big fan then and remember thinking, ‘How in the heck can anybody play in that game, much less sit there and watch it?’ That’s what made writing the book fun.”
One of my favorite stories appears on page 71 when Dallas defensive tackle Bob Lilly talks about what he witnessed that day.
Lilly said, “I had a great deal of admiration for everyone who went. I thought, ‘These people are tough.’ There were three guys behind us, the third or fourth row, wearing no shirts or coats and they were drinking out of a pint bottle, so that answered a few questions for me. And this was before the game started. I told (defensive end) George Andrie, ‘Those guys are going to die.’ I looked during the game, and those guys were gone. Turns out, they put their coats on – still pretty impressive, though.”
Carlson also tells a story about the Cowboys general manager at the time, Gil Brandt, and what he saw an hour before the game and then minutes before kickoff.
Brandt said, “When we came out for warm-ups, there wasn’t a person in the stands – it was empty. When we went back into the locker room, it was still empty. When we came back out with five or six minutes before kickoff, there wasn’t an empty seat in the place – amazing.”
I also enjoyed the story of a Cowboys fan who attended the game in a blue cocktail dress and was gone by the end of the first quarter.
If you like historical books about the Ice Bowl and the team in general, I highly recommend this book.