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The New Jersey blizzard that shut down a city, but opened the 334 Club

Friday, January 22nd 2021, 6:00 am - The 1987 blizzard couldn't stop 334 hardcore NHL fans from attending the New Jersey Devils game, leading to a unique and exclusive club named for their dedication.

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On Jan. 22, 1987, a blizzard shut down the New York-New Jersey area, but it didn't prevent the NHL’s Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils from playing a regular season game. It also didn't stop the 334 fans who absolutely had to be at the game, no matter how stormy it was.

1987-01-22/NOAA Heavy snow during the blizzard fell at a rate of up to 3 inches (over 7.5 cm) per hour. Photo: NOAA.

The game between the Flames and Devils wasn't expected to be historic. But when close to two feet of snow was dumped on the tri-state area, it was enough to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary pretty quickly. It actually paved the way for what turned into one of the most unusual evenings in the history of the league.

So, what was behind the blizzard? A warm, moisture-laden low that developed in the Gulf Coast trekked into the Deep South, and then slid up the Atlantic coastal states. As it collided with the Arctic, Canadian air sweeping down as part of a diving Alberta clipper, that moisture was instantly converted to heavy snow that fell at a rate of up to 3 inches (more than 7.5 cm) an hour.

New Jersey seats The Devils' paid attendance for the game was pegged at 11,247 fans, but only 334 showed up that night. Photo: Pexels.

It was more than enough to throttle traffic and close schools, airports and businesses, and send suddenly panicked shoppers to misguidedly and irrationally raid stores for supplies.

The Devils' paid attendance for the game was pegged at 11,247 fans, the number of actual tickets sold for the game. But the snow was too much for most fans, making conditions too dangerous for anyone to safely venture out to the arena that night. Well, except for 334 individuals who had to have either been in the arena already or were in the area all day.

Letter to fans/New Jersey Devils A letter was sent out to thank everyone for coming, along with souvenirs and tickets. Photo: New Jersey Devils.

The horrendous conditions snarled up traffic into a pretzel and that not only prevented fans, but also staff, officials and players, too. The Jan. 22, 1987 matchup is still said to stand as the lowest-attended game in modern NHL history.

Jeff Mazzei was a spectator at the game and told Sportsnet.ca, "Someone from the Devils came around with a yellow pad and went to every fan to get our names and addresses." This is how the 334 Club came about. A letter was sent out to thank everyone for coming, along with souvenirs and tickets.

334 Club/New Jersey Devils The 334 fans is still said to stand as the lowest-attended game in modern NHL history. Photo: New Jersey Devils.

Indeed, each of the 334 fans who showed up would later receive a pin, T-shirt and tickets to the next Devils-Flames game, or the closest game to the one-year anniversary. On the 25th anniversary of the game, members of the exclusive 334 Club were invited to a game and a private reception.

On today's podcast, Chris Mei discusses what led to the potent blizzard, conditions during the game, the number of fans who attended and how the 334 Club came to be.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

Thumbnail courtesy of Pexels.

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