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Rallying around the "we need winter weather" flag, the National Hockey League is going head to head with climate change deniers in its newly issued 2014 NHL Sustainability Report.

NHL To Climate Change Deniers: We Need Winter Weather!

Rallying around the “we need winter weather” flag, the National Hockey League is going head to head with climate change deniers in its newly issued 2014 NHL Sustainability Report.

The National Hockey League took on climate change deniers and set a new high bar for all the other pro sports leagues in the US, in the form of its newly issued 2014 NHL Sustainability Report. According to NHL, that makes NHL the first A-list pro sports league to issue a Sustainability Report.

On that score, NHL is really sticking its neck out there so to speak. From golf to motorsports, other major US pro sports leagues have not been slacking when it comes to climate action. Also, NHL is not the only major sports league to join the Green Sports Alliance. On the other hand, there are only seven leagues in all in the Green Sports Alliance including lacrosse and tennis so maybe NHL has something there…

NHL climate change

“He shoots…” by Kenny Louie.

NHL Sustainability Report Takes On Climate Change Deniers

NHL released the 2014 NHL Sustainability Report earlier this week. To grasp the full scope of the league’s sustainability efforts and achievements you should really take a look at the whole thing, but for those of you on the go NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s introduction to the report sums it up in four words:

…we need winter weather.

Bettmann also lays out the NHL’s bottom line perspective for taking on climate change denial:

Our sport can trace its roots to frozen freshwater ponds, to cold climates. 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.

…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. We have a vested interest in this cause. As a business, we rely on freshwater to make our ice, on energy to fuel our operations and on healthy communities for our athletes, employees and fans to live, work and play.

The Climate Change Denial Deke Fail

Over the past year or so the climate change denial pitch has pivoted. Initially a flat-out denial that there is overwhelming evidence of a global warming trend, the argument has shifted to at least some level of acceptance that the infamous “hockey stick graph” represents a real trend, while continuing to deny that human-caused pollution (aka greenhouse gas emissions) is the driving force behind that trend.

NHL certainly hasn’t fallen for that gag. Back in 2010, the league developed a broad sustainability initiative called NHL Green™  in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council, to advance its goals under one interconnected umbrella. You guessed it, reducing human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is a major thrust behind NHL Green and the Sustainability Report.

The 2014 NHL Sustainability Report

NRDC’s Dr. Allen Hershkowitz also contributes an introduction, in which he makes it clear that measuring, tracking, and abating greenhouse gas emissions at 30 NHL arenas is the driving force behind the report:

The reporting protocols used by the NHL for greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts have the highest integrity, following as they do the guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative and the World Resources Institute, arguably the most intelligently crafted and transparent greenhouse gas reporting guidelines ever developed.

In that context it’s also worth noting that the NHL was the first major pro sports league to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership. NHL’s summary statement for that initiative also emphasizes greenhouse gas initiatives:

The NHL procures enough renewable energy certificates (RECs) to mitigate the environmental impact of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as the electricity use at its New York City headquarters, pushing its percentage of green power use well over 100 percent.

The 2014 Sustainability Report and NHL Green also both go well beyond the hockey arena to tackle supply chain issues that also impact greenhouse gas emissions. That includes waste management as well as procurement.

NHL Teams And Climate Change

That figure of 100 percent green power applies to NHL-centered operations, so don’t start cheering for your home town team just yet.


However, based on some of the activity we’ve been tracking over the past several years, some of you NHL Green fans have lots to cheer about.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, for one, celebrated the opening of their new LEED Gold hockey stadium in 2010. In 2011 they followed up with a recycling campaign to coordinate with citywide sustainability efforts.

You can also look to some of your local stars for an aggressive stance on climate change denial. Despite currently playing for an NHL franchise based in the “oil capital of Canada,” Andrew Ference (aka @Ferknuckle) of the Edmunton Oilers is one standout example.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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