Snow pants were the fashion statement of the day Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium as the Vikings and the Seahawks tested their cold tolerance in the first outdoor playoff game in Minnesota in nearly 40 years.
The official temperature at kickoff was 4 below zero, with a windchill in the minus-20s. It was officially the third-coldest game in National Football League history and THE coldest in Vikings franchise history. Even the Vikings cheerleaders wore parkas — albeit fairly form-fitting ones — and Ugg-like boots.
The fans didn't seem to mind much the stinging cold and snapping wind. The sellout crowd whooped and hollered, danced and high-fived. They waved small white towels they'd been given at the entrance. They stomped their feet and clapped their mittened hands when the Vikings took an early lead.
Kara Buckner of St. Louis Park wore two pairs of long underwear, two pairs of snow pants, six layers on top, ski goggles and mukluks she'd had overnighted to her. En route to the game, she waited at the Government Center plaza light-rail stop with her fiancé, Derek Hansen. The couple had gone to REI and Hoigaard's on Friday and Saturday. Both stores were packed with Vikings fans looking for cold-weather gear.
"There's no such thing as bad weather," Buckner said. "Only inappropriate clothing."
Erin Pasker and her husband, Adam, came from Des Moines for the game. Erin said she was wearing so many layers, it was hard to move.
"It's all about preparation, and a little bit of stupidity," she said.
A little bit of cold wasn't about to deter Lisa Brichacek of Oakdale, who went to the game by herself after friends decided it might be better to watch it on TV.
Brichacek recited her clothing choices: "thermal long underwear, a fleece layer, a second fleece layer, snow pants and a Vikings windbreaker."
Inside the stadium, extra-cold beer was selling briskly. Halfway through the first quarter, beer seller Luke Lystrom was almost out of his fourth case of Miller Lite.
At a nearby beverage booth manned by Dave Randall and Joe Lief, one customer requested a warm drink.
"Our hot chocolate is froze," Randall told him.
EMS personnel were busy from the start, treating people for cold fingers and feet at the stadium's first-aid stations. Teams also were out in the stands, trying to solve problems before they became serious.
Michelle Mogen and Danielle Pekarna, sisters from Woodbury and Hugo, respectively, were in the restroom exchanging foot warmers for hand warmers in their boots.
"My feet are cold, but I'm good otherwise," Mogen said. "We're just glad the Vikes came to play."
Ben Lynch, an eye doctor from Fayetteville, Ark., came to the Twin Cities with his wife, who had a business conference at the Mall of America. He'd gotten a ticket to the game but lasted only until about halfway through the second quarter before heading back to his hotel. His foot warmers petered out after one quarter, he said. It was just too cold. Temperatures in Fayetteville were in the mid-20s.
"It was a great time," Lynch said, though, without a trace of sarcasm.
Although the game was officially sold out, resellers such as Stub Hub had tickets. Those on the sunny side of the stadium were going faster and for more money.
Sunday's game was the third-coldest in National Football League history, the league said. It fell well behind the famed Ice Bowl of 1967, when Green Bay hosted Dallas for the NFL title in 1967 with a temperature of 13 below.
Before the Vikings' loss to Seattle on Sunday, the team's coldest game was in December 1972, when it dipped to 2 below at the old Met Stadium. Of course, the weather was fine inside the Metrodome, where the Vikings played for 30 years.
By the time the Seahawks were gone, victorious, and the Vikings and their fans alike had finished licking their wounds, the low Sunday night in the Twin Cities was forecast to drop to 16 below. Highs through Wednesday are expected to remain in the single digits. Thursday, the highs should edge into the 20s.
As of 2 p.m. Sunday, the lowest reading in the Twin Cities was 4 below in Lakeville, according to the National Weather Service. Statewide, Fosston in northern Minnesota had the low-temp bragging rights, at 33 below.
Montevideo was the, ah, warmest, with a reading of 12 — above zero — as of 2 p.m.