Fog rose from the ice. A bat circled inside the arena. About all that was missing from Game 3 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Final was the theme from "The Twilight Zone."
The defending champion Philadelphia Flyers had won the first two games against the Buffalo Sabres at home at the Spectrum, an air-conditioned arena less than eight years old. But Game 3 on May 20, 1975 -- the "Fog Game," as it became known -- was played at Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, a facility built in 1940 and missing some modern amenities, including air conditioning.
Normally that wouldn't be a problem in Buffalo. But with the Sabres playing later into the spring than they had since joining the NHL in 1970, humid weather turned the Aud into a sauna, with temperatures near the ice approaching 90 degrees. (The high temperature in Buffalo that day was 82, and at game time it was 75 with 62 percent humidity -- a figure that rose as the evening went on, according to WeatherUnderground.com.)
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One bat that lived in the building's rafters apparently wanted to cool off, so it began flitting closer and closer to the ice. During a play stoppage in the first period, it made the mistake of buzzing a faceoff circle; Sabres forward Jim Lorentz raised his stick and flicked it out of the air, earning the nickname "Batman" from his teammates. Flyers center Rick MacLeish picked up the dead bat from the ice and dropped in into the penalty box.
And then things really got surreal.
With 15,863 fans packing the building on a hot night and no air conditioning, fog began to rise from the ice, obscuring players' legs and, in some instances, their entire bodies. Fans in the building and on TV had trouble following the play through the ghostly atmosphere.
Video: Memories: Sabres and Flyers Play Through Fog
The bat and the fog were sideshows to the Sabres' real problem: The Flyers kept taking leads. Philadelphia was up 2-0 3:09 into the game, led 3-2 after one period and 4-3 after two.
Defenseman Bill Hajt scored midway through the third period to tie it 4-4, and the game went into overtime.
The fog, which had forced play to be stopped five times during the first three periods so that players and rink workers could skate around the ice to try to dissipate it, became almost impenetrable as the night went on. Play was stopped seven more times during overtime for the same reason.
Perhaps amazingly, considering the conditions, the teams nearly made it through overtime without a goal. But at 18:29, Rene Robert, the right wing on the Sabres' "French Connection" line, took a pass from Gilbert Perreault in the corner to the left of Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent.
Robert took a shot from just above the goal line. Parent never saw the puck before it went into the net, giving Buffalo a 5-4 win.
"I saw Robert's shot too late for me to come out and stop it," Parent said. "I'm surprised the overtime took so long. It was hard to see the puck from the red line. If three men came down and one made a good pass from the red line, you couldn't see the puck. A good shot from the red line could have won it."
Robert said he wasn't even trying to score when he took the shot.
"It's almost impossible to score from that angle," Robert said. "But I shot at the net, hoping somebody could get the rebound. It seemed to me [Parent] wasn't ready for the shot. It went between his legs."
The win gave the Sabres new life, and they evened the series two nights later with a 4-2 win at home. But the Flyers won 5-1 at home in Game 5, then returned to Buffalo one week after the fog incident and clinched their second straight Cup championship with a 2-0 victory, celebrating while skating around a fog-free Memorial Auditorium.