by Maya Gutierrez
Why was a representative of the National Hockey League (NHL) in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference? Journalist Kevin Blackistone met with the NHL’s vice president for corporate and social responsibility, Omar Mitchell, to discuss the NHL’s unexpected presence at the conference. According to Mitchell, climate change and water scarcity uniquely impact hockey, which at the community level depends on cold weather and fresh water. The NHL seeks to promote water restoration and other sustainable practices. In furtherance of these goals, the NHL has created an eco-friendly mandate “NHL Green” to combat climate change.
The NHL has not yet set any specific goals it hopes to achieve in reducing its carbon footprint. Rather, the League is in the first phase of working with environmental advisors, such as US non-profit, Green Sports Alliance, a catalyst for environmental awareness in sports, and Constellation Energy, to evaluate the league’s environmental impact and develop tangible goals to reduce its carbon footprint. Already the league has identified that 75% of its energy use comes from operations in its arenas, which it has targeted as the starting point for its energy reduction efforts.
As important as it is to reduce its own carbon footprint, with an estimated 12 million followers on social media, the NHL understands its power to influence the public on environmental issues. In fact, Mitchell observes that the sports industry in general is ideally suited to talk about climate change in a meaningful, non-political way because sports draw fans from all political parties. And, its basic message about healthy communities and lifestyles appeals to everyone.
To bolster its message, the NHL has contacted Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, which is conducting a study called “RinkWatch,” to gather empirical data from local communities to determine whether climate change is causing ponds to freeze later in the season or thaw earlier. The League also hopes to increase awareness by getting its players involved. Some professional hockey players, such as Andrew Ference, are already involved in the launch to be more eco-friendly. With many players having learned the sport as children on local ponds, the League expects more players to join and support the cause. Through these efforts the NHL and other sports industries hope to bring everyone together to work on the common cause of battling climate change.
Blackistone, K. , 2016. Why The NHL Is Getting Involved In Climate-Change Efforts.The Washington Post. 1-4.