Chillin’ in Milwaukee

Chillin' in Milwaukee
Amid arctic blast, Bucks share stories of coldest days they remember


by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Cold weather isn't a surprise to some of the players, but to others, it's another adjustment to NBA basketball. (NBAE / Getty Images)
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January 16, 2009

As the Milwaukee Bucks came out to warm up for their Jan. 14 game at the Bradley Center – against the Miami Heat, no less – some of them had their warm-ups on.

Good move.

The BC was actually warm and cozy, but in order to get there, the Bucks, just like anyone else in Wisconsin who had places to go and things to do that day, had to venture outdoors.

Temperates had already plummeted into the single digits during the day of the game. Local meteorologists were forecasting the most brutal cold snap the state has seen in over 10 years, projecting that overnight lows could reach –20 and that wind chills could become as extreme as –40 or –50.

The next morning’s weather data showed that the Milwaukee overnight low was –10, and that Beaver Dam reached –18. Wind chills of –30 and –40 were recorded across southeastern Wisconsin. The cold was even more extreme to the north, where wind chills reached –42 in Marshfield and –41 in Green Bay and Appleton.

Somebody in the Bucks lockerroom must have overheard the Green Bay forecast, because the subject of the Ice Bowl was brought up.

The Milwaukee/Racine/Waukesha metropolitan area is the second-coldest in the United States, with an average mean temperature of 48.27 degrees.

The coldest temperature reading ever recorded in Milwaukee was –26, on both Jan. 17, 1982 and Feb. 4, 1996.

If the mercury had decided to drop even lower than forecasters were anticipating, this was one record-setting performance the Bucks wanted no part of.

As the players went about their business – in this case, getting ready to try and beat the Heat – several of them were asked to talk about the coldest day they could remember, 

Luke Ridnour grew up in Blaine, Wash., just a few miles from the U.S./Canadian border, and attended college at the University of Oregon.

The coldest day he could remember prior to this year was no match for what he has experienced during his first season in Milwaukee.

“That’s definitely changed already,” Ridnour said. “The Milwaukee weather is the coldest I’ve been in, where I’ve lived. I’d seen teen days for sure, but I’d never had negative degrees, or negative-20 wind chill, or whatever it’s been.”

Ridnour heard the latest cold snap was coming, so he took a peek out his window before leaving for work on gameday.

“I woke up and looked outside and thought, ‘Man, I’d better leave for practice, because I don’t know how long it’s going to take.”

Then he counted his blessings.

“I’m glad I don’t have to go outside and get my car,” he said. “I just go in my garage. But even at that, everything’s frozen in there. It’s cold, for sure.”

The coldest metropolitan region of the continental United States is the Minneapolis/St. Paul region of Minnesota. It was there that one of Ridnour’s teammates received his first arctic blast.

Malik Allen offers a telling account of what it felt like.

“The coldest weather I can remember being in was in Minnesota, when I was in college (at Villanova University),” Allen said. “We were playing in a tournament there.

“I remember walking outside. It was the first time I’d ever had the wind taken out of my chest, it was so cold. I walked outside to go down the street to a pizza place. I got outside, took a few steps, felt the wind leaving my chest, and turned around and walked right back inside the hotel.

“I can’t remember how cold they said it was. I can remember our trainers telling us it was real cold.”

Allen, who grew up in New Jersey, certainly saw his share of snowy, chilly days there, but they didn’t compare to what he has experienced since in the Upper Midwest.

“Back East, it’ll get cold and freeze a few times a year,” he said. “But most of the time, it gets just below freezing – high 20s.

"If it was in the high 20s right now, I could walk around outside with a T-shirt on, compared to what it is here now. I would take that happily.”

Ramon Sessions, who was born and raised in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and attended the University of Nevada, says he didn’t know what cold was until his arrival in Milwaukee during his rookie season of 2007-08.

Now he knows what colder is.

“The coldest day I can remember was here in Milwaukee, this season, back when it was real windy,” Sessions said. “I think the wind chill was like negative 19. We had our team Christmas party that night.

“Oh, it was rough! The wind was blowing in your face, like … it was crazy. I’d never seen or felt anything like that before.”

Tyronn Lue, a Missouri native who attended the University of Nebraska, experienced the chilling winds that sweep across the Great Plains. But Lue, too, has discovered a new brand of cold during his first year in Milwaukee.

“The coldest day I can remember was here, about three weeks ago, when it was negative 6 degrees … fahrenheit,” Lue said. “It was negative 30-something with the wind chill. It was never anything like that at Nebraska.”

So how did the Bucks plan to deal with the deep freeze?

“You kind of get used to it and roll with it,” Ridnour said. “You just don’t do outside. Overall, it hasn’t been too bad.”

Lue has taken pretty much the same approach.

“I just roll with it, man – just try to stay bundled up,” he said. “That’s all you can do.”

Sessions hasn’t quite figured it out yet.

“This weather here, I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’ve just kind of tried to roll with it. I just try to stay inside, do everything inside.”

The Bucks’ weather-beaters probably have a new coldest-day-I-remember story to tell after exiting the Bradley Center following the Miami game. The cold snap had arrived.

But refuge awaited them. They boarded their team plane at Mitchell International Airport at 3 a.m. and headed for Sacramento, where the forecasted high temperature for Jan. 15 was 63 degrees.

The Sacramento stop opened a three-game West Coast swing that would take the Bucks to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 17 and the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 19.

Then they will fly back to Milwaukee to play the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 21.

The extended local forecast lists the projected high temperature as 30 degrees for that day.

Maybe Malik Allen will put on a tank top and gather his teammates for an outdoor scrimmage to celebrate the warmth.

Or not.