This Week in Bulls History: The “Ice Bowl”

“This week in Bulls History” usually focuses on multiple games or memorable performances but given that this was an unusually slow week in Bulls history I will look at one record-breaking game that took place 45 years ago this week.

January 8, 1970: Bulls vs Suns at Chicago Stadium

There was nothing particularly special about January 8, 1970. The Bulls were 19-25 and back home against the Phoenix Suns after an 8 game road trip. However, it was cold. Consecutive days of sub zero tempratures had paralyzed Chicago and to make matters worse, according to Tom Boerwinkle, Chicago Stadium’s heater malfuntioned which created such unfavorable conditions that officials considered cancelling the game.

“An official 5,086 fans appeared last night at Chicago Stadium where management attempted to isolate the pneumonia germ.” –The Arizona Republic, January 9, 1970

Despite the temperature (estimated to be 40 degrees inside the arena) the Bulls and the Suns squared off into what would soon become a blowout and then transform into one of the classic games in franchise history. The Bulls started fast and the Suns were never really in the game. Chicago built an 18 point lead in the 1st quarter and led Phoenix 78-51 at the half behind 24 points from Bob Love. The lead ballooned to 41 in the 3rd period, which ended with the Bulls up 115-80. The Suns scored 43 points in the 4th quarter but Chicago’s 37 gave them the 152-123 victory, at the time, the highest point total ever by a Suns’ opponent.


Chicago Tribune January 9, 1970

Bob Logan of the Chicago Tribune called it the “biggest night of their four NBA seasons” in large part because of the “freezer full” of records set. As per, the records included:

Most players with 20 plus points: Bob Love (34), Bob Weiss (24), Clem Haskins (24), Tom Boerwinkle (22), Chet Walker (21)
Most points in a game (152)
Most points in a half (78)
Most points in a single quarter (44 in 2nd quarter)
Most rebounds in a quarter (24 in 4th)
Most FT made in a game (56)
Most FT attempted in a game (71)
Most FT attempted in a quarter (27 in 4th)
Most FT attempted in a half (48 in 2nd half)
Most fouls by opponent in a game (44)
Most fouls by opponent in a half (29 in 2nd half)
Most FG attempts by opponent in a game (121)
Most FT attempts by opponent in a half (76 in 2nd half)
Most FG attempts by opponent in a quarter (43 in 4th quarter)

Many of the marks above have since been broken (some of them lasted well over 20 years), but the individual rebound record set by Bulls’ Center Tom Boerwinkle is 45 years old and counting. As a team, the Bulls dominated the Suns on the boards 79-19. Boerwinkle pulled down 37 rebounds by himself to go along with his 22 points, and perhaps equally impressive, accomplished the feat in just 35 minutes of play.

“Good things were happening to me from the opening tip. Never had I experienced the breaks…that I did on that night. Everything was bouncing my way. I had 12 rebounds by the end of the first quarter, and was closing in on 20 by halftime. Balls were just finding their way to me; I was in the right place at the right time all the time. Things just snowballed from there.” -Tom Boerwinkle remembering his 37 rebounds on January 8, 1970

Jerry Colangelo, of the Suns, called Boerwinkle’s performance “unbelievable,” and Bulls coach Dick Motta attributed the huge victory to “the big guy gave us the ball and let us run.” The individual franchise record has only been seriously threatened once with Charles Oakley’s 35 rebounds on April 22, 1988 and the fact that it survived Dennis Rodman’s years in Chicago bodes well for its longevity. However, the record is not untouchable and even Boerwinkle, who played sparingly in the 2nd half, remembered people encouraging him to enter the game and go for 40 or even 50 boards.

Of course there were other things one could list in a Bulls history update for this week in January, such as Michael Jordan’s 53 point game against Portland on January 8, 1987 or Dennis Rodman’s 26 rebound game in 1997, but the lasting presence of what was referred to as the “Ice Bowl” warrants its own recognition.

Follow me on Twitter @jlw771


Posted on January 5, 2015, in Articles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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