Climate Change, Warming Winters A Threat To Hockey's Long-Term Viability: NHL 2014 Sustainability Report

NHL Ice Hockey Stanley Cup
New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) controls the puck against Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin (6) during the second period in game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. A new NHL Sustainability Report addresses the threat of climate change to hockey. Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League says it's confronting climate change to help ensure ice hockey’s long-term survival.

“We need winter weather,” NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, said in a statement Monday. “We have a vested interest in this cause.”

The NHL, which generated more than $3 billion in revenue last season, detailed how it plans to curb energy consumption, reduce water use, invest in more renewable-energy installations and slash overall greenhouse-gas emissions as part of its 2014 Sustainability Report -- the first of its kind by a professional sports league. The document took about two years to assemble and was produced in partnership with the National Resources Defense Council, a powerful environmental group, based in Washington, D.C.

“Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game outdoors,” Bettman said. “We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our league.”

The report doesn’t elaborate much further on how rising global temperatures, enduring drought, extreme weather events and other climate-related issues will affect the league’s 30 teams, which together have more than 68 million fans across North America. But the document does drill down on the NHL’s overall contribution to climate change and other environmental effects, and it outlines goals for scaling back on both.

A single NHL game, for instance, puts 408 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, mostly due to all the energy required to run the arena during an event. That’s equal to burning about 90,000 gallons of gasoline, The Hill noted. To create just one NHL regulation ice sheet, which is usually kept frozen for an entire season, the league uses up to 15,000 gallons of water, according to the report.

To compile such figures, the league developed and adopted an online tool called NHL Metrics to capture nearly 40 categories of data related to energy use, recycling and water use and generation from each of its 30 clubs.

“This document is an important reminder to all sports fans, leagues, teams and businesses that while natural ice hockey might be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to the effects of climate change on sports, the effects of climate disruption are a challenge to all leagues and businesses, and we must take meaningful action to reverse the course,” Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the NRDC, said in a statement.

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