The Green Bay Packers may be about to host the coldest game in National Football League history, eclipsing their own record set during the 1967 game known as the Ice Bowl.
The coldest air in 18 years might arrive in Wisconsin the night before the Jan. 5 first-round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field, according to Cameron Moreland, chief meteorologist at NBC-TV in Green Bay. The forecast is a factor in slow ticket sales, according to resellers.
If an Arctic blast reaches the city before the 3:40 p.m. local time kickoff, the temperature will rival that of the Dec. 31, 1967, NFL Championship game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, which started at the same stadium with the temperature at -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius), Moreland said. It felt like -48 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill for that game, which Green Bay won 21-17.
“The big question is which one of those computer forecast models are correct,” Moreland said in a telephone interview. “It’s a difference between a cold game and a historically cold game.”
Moreland’s forecast for the day after the game is a high of -13 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills of -50 degrees possible, which would be in the top 10 coldest days in Green Bay’s history, he said.
The National Weather Service forecast for the afternoon of game day is sunny with a high near 2 degrees, turning cloudy with a low of -18 Fahrenheit.
The term “frozen tundra” that became associated with Lambeau Field was attributed to NFL Films narrator John Facenda’s reference to the Ice Bowl. Heating coils placed under the turf before that season froze during the game, turning the field into a sheet of ice. The Packers won when Bart Starr scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 16 seconds left in the game. By then, the temperature had fallen to -18.
In the second-coldest game, the temperature was -9 on Jan. 10, 1982, when the Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers 27-7 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The wind chill made it feel like -59. The third-coldest was the New York Giants’ 23-20 overtime win in -1 weather in Green Bay on Jan. 20, 2008, in the National Football Conference Championship game.
The approaching cold front is affecting the Packers’ attempts to sell out the game and avoid a television blackout that would be mandated by league rules. There were fewer than 1,000 tickets remaining as of 9:30 a.m., according to the team. There were about 3,000 left Thursday.
The Colts’ game Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs sold out Friday after Meijer Inc., a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based superstore, agreed to buy the remaining 1,200 tickets. The Bengals’ home game against San Diego Chargers on Jan. 5 is approaching a sellout after grocery store Kroger Co. agreed to buy a “large quantity” of tickets, the team said.
Saturday’s matchup between the Eagles and New Orleans Saints in Philadelphia is the only one of the four wild-card games that sold out quickly. The league has extended its deadline until Friday for the other teams to sell out the games.
“The data here shows very low demand in three of the four host cities, with Philly being the exception,” Chris Matcovich, a spokesman for New York-based ticket aggregator TiqIQ, said in an e-mail.
Green Bay season-ticket holders were offered a chance to buy tickets throughout the playoffs during the third week of November, with the money applied to next season if the team failed to reach the postseason or didn’t play at home, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Packers were 5-5 at the time and half of eligible fans turned down the opportunity, leaving 40,000 tickets available after Green Bay beat the Chicago Bears on Dec. 29 to clinch a division title with an 8-7-1 record, the newspaper said.
“In Green Bay, a lot of it has to do with season ticket holders opting not to buy when they had their chance,” Matcovich said. “To complicate that, when tickets were opened to the general public, weather forecasts showed it would be a frigid game.”
On the secondary market, the least expensive Packers’ tickets were being sold for $120 as of Thursday, $60 less than they went for during Green Bay’s last wild-card home game a year ago versus the Minnesota Vikings, according to TiqIQ.
The cheapest seats are going for $90 in Indianapolis, down from $172 when the Colts hosted the Jets in a 2010 wild-card matchup, according TiqIQ. Entry to the Bengals’ game costs $71, while the cheapest seats at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia are going for $147, higher than the $130 price tag when the Eagles hosted Green Bay in a 2011 wild-card meeting.
“In Indy and Cincy, I think it’s simply that the fan bases are smaller and the matchups are not very enticing,” Matcovich said.
Moreland said the Green Bay weather would make it fun to watch on television, “if we can even watch it.”
“I’m kind of hoping that the fact that it could be a historic game will make people want to go to it to say ‘I was there,’” he said.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a native Californian, said the weather will “definitely have an effect on the game.”
“Not everyone in this locker room is from the great state of Wisconsin, but we do practice in it and live in it, so we’re going to be a little bit better at adapting initially,” Rodgers, who went to the University of California-Berkeley, told reporters. “Once the game starts it’s about who can execute in the cold weather. It does some different things to the football.”
The television cameras will be covered with electric blankets and equipment will stay running overnight as the crew at News Corp.’s Fox Sports, which will televise the game, pays close attention to the power source, said Jerry Steinberg, senior vice president of field operations and engineering for the network.
Fox also will broadcast next month’s NFL title game from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the first Super Bowl played outdoors in a cold-weather city.
“You start in summer when it could be 90 and you end in winter when it could be -50,” Steinberg said in a telephone interview. “The greatest football games that you’ve seen have been with the weather. It’s part of what we do, and this year it’s like getting reps for what could be going on on Feb. 2.”