As Playoffs Heat Up, NHL Aims to Ice Global Warming

  • Monday, April 16, 2012 1:25 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Photo credit: Chealion/Michael J. at Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/chealion

Game three tonight between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals promises to be a scorcher. But it is the heat outside of the Verizon Center that could play a factor.

Washington, D.C. and more than 90 other American cities already experienced the warmest March on record. And today temperatures are expected to reach historic highs of near 90 degrees fahrenheit in the nation's capital, which could cause problems with the Verizon Center ice surface. Despite being indoors, a hot day outside can affect ice conditions. Warm weather can soften the ice, making it difficult to skate and control the puck.

But if the game was in Boston it would be no better. Ask the more than 4,000 Boston Marathon entrants who sat out today's race due to the record mid-80s heat wave. It was the second slowest race since 1985 thanks to the blistering heat.

Hockey, more than any other sport, depends on cold weather to keep the ice sheet smooth and hard. That's why the climate change forecasting trends should have every hockey player and fan running to replace their gas guzzler with an electric vehicle. A new study published in the Institute of Physics’ journal, Environmental Research Letters, concludes that because of steadily rising temperatures, by mid-century there might not be any outdoor ice rinks in Canada. Let me repeat that. Climate change could kill outdoor ice hockey in Canada. If that isn't a wake up call then nothing short of Lake Ontario overtaking Toronto will convince skeptics.

Rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change is something the National Hockey League takes very seriously. The NHL publicizes its efforts to lower its carbon footprint at its NHL Green Web site, a partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Some recent headlines include a story about New York City's gigantic Stanley Cup fountain that encourages visitors to taste the pure, clean NYC tap water from the Catskill Mountains. The event was part of the NHL's Gallons for Goals initiative, which aims to educate people about the importance of freshwater as a natural resource. Other recent news items include a story about the New Jersey Devils using biodiesel at the Prudential Center and how NHL clubs are honoring Earth Hour by switching-off non-essential lighting for one hour.

And Canada, the spiritual home of hockey, is starting to take climate change action. Perhaps the Harper Administration took notice when a weekend heat wave in late March in Ottawa spawned the capital's first smog day of the year. Ottawa doesn't generally get much smog and certainly not as early as March 19. Whatever the reason, there is encouraging news today from Canada as it was reported that the government is cracking down on heavy duty vehicle emissions. The new regulations for large pick-up trucks, buses and other heavy duty vehicles will by 2020 reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tons per year.

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NHL Ices Global Warming

  • Thursday, May 20, 2010 10:45 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The coldest sport on earth is icing global warming.

The National Hockey League is skating toward a better future with Thursday's announcement of its Green Initiative in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The NHL has launched a green micro-site within NHL.com called NHL Green. The site contains features, headline news, eco-friendly advice, environmental links and multimedia content.

"Our game originated on frozen ponds," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Most of our players learned to skate on outdoor rinks. For that magnificent tradition to continue through future generations, we need winter weather -- and, as a league, we are uniquely positioned to promote that message. We are thrilled to be able to work with the Natural Resources Defense Council and to draw upon its vast experience and expertise in greening League events and League and Club operations."

The NHL also announced that it will be replacing 30,000 plastic shopping bags with reusable bags at this year's Stanley Cup Finals.

"Lakes are freezing later and melting earlier, which is not good for ice hockey, and biodiversity is being lost at historically unprecedented rates, which is not good for the health and well-being of our planet," said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist, NRDC. "As one of the world's most iconic professional sports leagues, the NHL should be applauded for launching a program to help address these global environmental pressures, and NRDC is proud to join with the NHL to help identify ecologically meaningful, achievable goals. The NHL has an opportunity to make a real difference in its own operations, with its suppliers, and also to set a standard for others to follow. We are excited to embark on this valuable project."

This is a smart move by Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League. If we are going to change the public's perception of climate change then professional sports will hopefully lead the way. Spectator sports provides one of the few public spaces that unites Americans of all stripes and persuasions.

When the NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS take the lead in acknowledging and taking action against climate change, then the skeptical masses will follow.

So kudos to the NHL for going green. Here are links to the green initiatives of the other major sports leagues:

NBA Green

MLB Team Greening Program

MLS Greener Goals

While I couldn't find a web page from the National Football League, it doesn't mean the NFL isn't going green as this article about last year's Super Bowl reveals:

Six Ways the NFL is Greening Super Bowl XLIV. Really.

Here is video of Bettman talking about NHL Green:

Mike Richter Takes Stand Against Dirty Oil

  • Thursday, March 11, 2010 1:12 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Most hockey fans remember goalie Mike Richter leading the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994.

It was the Blueshirts' first championship since 1940 and happened in a thrilling Game 7 victory at Madison Square Garden over the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 3-2 to send Gotham into a frenzy.

But not many know about the Hall of Fame netminder's off-ice heroics of late. Richter is committed to a much tougher task than stopping pucks -- he is speaking out about fighting climate change and his target is the tar sands of Canada.

The Abingdon, Pa., native and father of three sons recently teamed with the Sierra Club to advocate for a clean energy economy in America and he also wrote an op-ed against a proposed Canada-to-USA dirty oil pipeline that ran in newspapers in the United States and Canada.

In the op-ed he points out the inconvenient truth of the Athabasca Oil Sands and the devastation they cause the environment (including the threat of killing as many as 166 million migratory birds over the next five decades, one of which is seen below):

"The Canadian province of Alberta is home to a form of oil that is considered the dirtiest on earth. It's called the oil sands, and each barrel creates three times the global-warming pollution of conventional oil. That's a staggering amount of carbon," writes Richter.

And in his letter to Sierra Club supporters he says the following:

"I'm calling my senators because I want my three sons to benefit from a lifetime of winter sports, to graduate in a country that continues to be a world leader in industry and innovation, especially when it comes to clean energy, and to protect them from the reliance on foreign oil that threatens our national security."

But is it too late to stop the dirtiest oil on the planet from crossing the border into America? Perhaps. From Wikipedia:

"On August 20, 2009, the U.S. State Department issued a presidential permit for an Alberta Clipper Pipeline that will run from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. The pipeline will be capable of carrying up to 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Athabasca Oil Sands to U.S. refineries."

I checked the State Department website and in the press release of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline permit it includes the strikingly contradictory statements that greenhouse gas emissions were taken into account and that the United States is committed to reducing carbon emissions and reducing dependence on oil.

Huh? Then why start pumping the filthiest fossil fuel on the planet into Wisconsin. Doesn't make sense. If this is the idea of addressing climate change than I agree with Richter and suggest scrapping this pipeline. But I'll let Richter speak for himself:

"We can't seriously combat global warming while getting fuel from the world's dirtiest source. If we allow Canada's oil sands project to creep across our border, it will lock our nation into dependence on yet another foreign source of oil, just as our local clean-energy industry is beginning to thrive.

Right now, we are poised to become a leader in the global clean-energy economy. By taking the steps to ensure that we are the leader of the next industrial revolution, we can reignite our economy, bolster national security and improve the health of our people.

One of the most important things we can do to demonstrate that leadership is to say no to Canada's oil sands. For now, the decision rests with the Obama administration. By denying permits for pipelines and refineries in the United States, President Obama can signal to the world that we are serious about fighting climate change and helping American clean-energy technologies thrive.

If he does, we just might be able to save the winter games we love -- and set a new course for the nation we cherish."

Thanks, Mike Richter, for doing what's right and taking a stand on this important issue. While he is busy as a founding partner in the private equity firm Environmental Capital Partners and was considering running for U.S. Congress under Connecticut's 4th congressional district in 2008, my hope is that Richter brings his message to Washington. President Obama and Congress need to hear from a hero like Richter.