Green efforts put focus on environment

Green efforts put focus on environment

By Ian Thomas, Staff Writer


For NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the league’s heavy focus on environmental and social responsibility initiatives is a no-brainer.

“We are fortunate to be able to do what we do — anyone associated with this game — and because of the prominence that sports have, and that franchises particularly have in a community, we have a unique platform. And I think it’s vital we use that platform for a greater good,” Bettman said.

Under Bettman’s leadership the league has been at the forefront of driving positive social and environmental changes, a position that has garnered recognition outside of the sports world.

NHL prospects plant trees at last year’s draft combine in Buffalo as part of the NHL Green Legacy Tree Project.
Photo by: NHL

“When the Pittsburgh Penguins went to the White House, the president of the United States talked about climate change because the NHL has staked out such visibility on this issue,” said Allen Hershkowitz, the founding director of Sport and Sustainability International and the co-founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance. “The NHL was invited to [Sport at the Service of Humanity] at Vatican City with the pope — when you put it all together, it really is an incredible diversity of activities they are promoting.”

The NHL formally launched its NHL Green initiative in 2010, which has focused heavily on environmental issues that could affect the future of the game and young players learning it outdoors, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity. In 2014, it became the first professional sports league to issue an environmental sustainability report.

“The fact is, our players grow up playing on frozen ponds, we need cold weather to play our sport, and even when indoors, we need a giant refrigerator — that’s why we prioritize sustainability, because it’s meaningful for our game, and we need to ensure it is around for another 100 years,” said Omar Mitchell, NHL vice president of corporate social responsibility.

The NHL has moved forward on initiatives to accomplish those goals, including counterbalancing its environmental impact through renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets, and restoring more than 50 million gallons of water to streams across North America.

The league recently launched its Greener Rinks campaign in conjunction with its energy partner, Constellation, that aims to measure and evaluate the environmental impact of community ice rinks across the continent.

“We want to make sure by bringing best practices that we’ve learned, we can instill these financial and sustainability platforms and thinking to where people learn the sport,” Mitchell said. “There are two major barriers to entry to hockey — one is equipment and one is ice time, and if we can help lower operating costs in an arena, hopefully we can reduce the cost of ice time.”

The NHL also has positioned itself as a leader on social issues around education, equality and health. Its most visible initiative is the Hockey Fights Cancer program, which the NHL launched in December 1998. It has raised more than $17 million to support national and local cancer center research institutions, children’s hospitals, and player and local charities.

Highlighting its broad player base, which hails from 19 countries, the NHL has also aimed to embrace and encourage diversity, inclusion, acceptance and respect for anyone involved in the game of hockey.

The league supports 36 youth hockey organizations and more than 100,000 children annually through its Hockey Is for Everyone program. In addition, the league and NHLPA’s joint Future Goals program is touted as the world’s largest digital STEM education initiative, reaching more than 1 million students across North America since it was launched in 2014.

“Our players are people who truly embody the messaging of one of our partners — ‘If you can play, you can play,’” said Jessica Berman, NHL vice president of special projects and corporate social responsibility.”