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The melting ice rink

Illustration by Adrian Forrow

The National Hockey League, in the first sustainability report to be released by a major sports league, is urging anyone who cares about the future of hockey to take action to stop climate change.

It even quotes a Hall of Famer to tug on the hearts and minds of hockey fans. “As hockey fans, it is imperative that we take the time to understand these issues and make an effort to become strong environmental stewards,” said former U.S. goaltender Mike Richter in the report. “The future of our sport, and your local pond hockey game, depends on all of us.”

The report cites a paper published by the Institute of Physics’ Environmental Research Letters in 2012 that confirms a hockey lover’s worst fear: Global warming has reduced the skating season in Canada by as much as 30 per cent over the last 50 years. The melting ice rink is a growing source of concern among league officials.

Highlighting its own attention to the issue, the NHL said it has purchased renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets to help reduce its impact. Combined with other efforts, the league said it has reduced its carbon emissions by more than 38 million pounds since 2012.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the importance of such a message coming from a league like the NHL is that it’s a non-political, non-partisan statement. “This is really a mainstream affirmation that we have a challenge that needs to be addressed by business,” Hershkowitz said.

Hockey is one of many sports expected to be hurt by climate change. During the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year, U.S. cross-country skier Andrew Newell lamented its impact on his own sport over the past 10 years. “It’s no coincidence then that the last decade was also the hottest decade ever recorded,” he wrote in a commentary for USA Today.

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