Sep 26, 2023

The Night The Fog Rolled In

Hersheypark Arena - September 26, 1998
My dad had been cleaning his house out last summer to try to get rid of some clutter when he found this ticket stub to a pre-season hockey game between the Flyers and the Penguins in the back of his desk drawer.  It's from a game that he and I went to 25 years ago when I was 18 years old.  When he gave it to me, I had trouble remembering that I had ever been to a Flyers game with my pop, but the memories came flooding back to me as soon as he said "it was the game with all of the fog".

Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

This is one of those situations where a picture doesn't tell a thousand words.  The ice was covered with fog to the point where you could hardly tell that a game was being played at all.  The article that was published alongside this photo does a much better job than either the photo or my memory could do.

Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

An article written by Kevin Freeman for the Lancaster Sunday News explained the cause of the situation.  Hershepark Arena was built in 1936 without air conditioning.  As a result, the warm air on the ice caused so much fog that the game had to be stopped 19 times so the players could skate around in a circle to try to clear the fog.

Apparently, this game has become somewhat infamous.  I came across a transcript from a speech given by NHL play-by-play commentator Mike Emrick in 2011 to commemorate the 75th birthday of Hersheypark Arena.  He spoke about the fact that the machinery that was used to make the ice was worked by a 102 year old man named Milt Garland, who was recognized at the Prime Time Awards held in November 1997 as the oldest working person in the world.  One of the challenges he faced was the condition of the ice in September during preseason games.  The game that Dad and I went to on September 26th, 1998 was specifically called out due to the fog and thin ice risking the safety of the players.  According to Mr. Emrick, there was discussion after the second period about whether or not they should end the game early, but they decided to keep playing so that they wouldn't have to issue refunds to the 7,000+ fans in attendance.

Lebanon Daily News - Lebanon, PA  (September 27, 1998)
Sunday News - Lancaster, PA  (September 27, 1998)

Unless there is some other game that I'm forgetting, this was the first NHL game that I had ever been to.... but who knows.  Maybe my dad will find another ticket stub from a game that we went to that I've forgotten about.