The Meltdown: Climate change ‘impacting access’ to hockey

Montreal Canadians’ Alex Galchenyuk (27) fires a shot towards the Toronto Maple Leaf’s goal on Jan. 23, 2016 at the Air Canada Center. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


The National Hockey League is the first professional sports league to issue an environmental sustainability report.

In the recently released assessment, the league explained that the purpose of the report was to highlight their recent efforts and also the challenges they face from an environmental perspective.

“Hockey was born on frozen ponds,” said the NHL in their most recent report on sustainability. “Climate change is impacting access to our sport outdoors.”

Professors from Wilfrid Laurier University estimate that, in coming decades, the average length of the skating season may shrink by one-third in eastern Canada, and by 20 percent in western Canada.

The researchers at Wilfrid Laurier have also developed a citizen science research initiative called RinkWatch, which asks outdoor-hockey enthusiasts to assist them in monitoring winter weather conditions. The purpose of the organization is to gather information on the long-term impacts of climate change.

“Hockey depends on a healthy natural environment and, like most sports, it is resource-intensive,’ said the recently released report. “Changing climates, increasing resource constraints, and upcoming regulation impact the hockey industry,”

Back in 2008, the NHL teamed up with the National Resources Defense Council, a team of environmentalist, to establish the NHL Green program. The organization’s goal is to use innovative technology to create a more environmentally sound sport.

Most recently, the NHL Green team analyzed the league’s arenas for sustainability and operational efficiencies. Following the study, the organization determined the league must focus on energy reduction and offsetting environmental impacts.

So far, three of the league’s arenas have already installed fuel cell technology, a source for on-site clean and reliable energy, which will also reduce utility consumption from the grid. Along with the grid, the NHL also plans on installing LED lighting in all their arenas in the next five years.

The innovative lighting fixtures are expected to last for 54,000 hours, instead of the old system which would last for around 3,000 hours. The new lights will emit no heat, so each facility will reduce the amount air conditioning and also reduce the waste from the used lights.

“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our league,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a letter released to the public, following the report’s release.

In the league’s next sustainability report, officials hope to include more in-depth data and also information on refrigerants and fan transportation.

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