NHL Green fights climate change by greening up the sport

The home of the Washington Capitals faces some limitations on environmental improvements they can make to the facility, but some energy-efficient updates recently made include LED lighting and a new roof. (Clyde/Creative Commons)

The National Hockey League has been known for spectacular goals, jaw-dropping saves and heavy hits for over 100 years now. Recently, the NHL has started to become known for something bigger than what happens on the ice, protecting the planet with the NHL Green initiative.

The purpose of this initiative is to create a more eco-friendly hockey world. According to the official NHL Green website, the league plans to inspire change in a multitude of ways. Some of the biggest goals of the initiative is construct greener rinks, and make both the franchises of the NHL reach lower emissions and limit waste, as well as reaching out to communities to educate and inspire change.

Since the introduction of NHL Green, all 31 NHL franchises have done their part to help combat the climate crisis, including 2018 Stanley Cup Champions the Washington Capitals. 

Like all other professional sports teams, the Capitals — and hockey in general — face the same questions when it comes to resources and how their events affect the climate.

When it comes to professional sporting events, food concessions have become a major source of revenue for a franchise's home stadium. With so much food being prepared for fans hungry for more than just a win, the Capitals plan with their food distributors to make sure there is limited waste as well as any unused food is put to good use according to Megan Eichenberg, senior manager of communications and publicity for the Capitals.

“Aramark Food and Beverage (our in house concessionaire) actively manages all of their warehouse cooking stock, with perishables being delivered daily, to limit as much waste as possible. From time to time, donations will be made to the Capital Area Food Bank with any excess product,” Eichenberg said.

Even though projects like that are helpful to the cause of preserving the planet, larger updates to the Capitals’ home rink at Capital One Arena can be a challenge. But there are still options.

“We have recently replaced our membrane roof which allows us to be more energy efficient,” Eichenberg said. “... we are limited in what weight can be added to the roof while still supporting the concert loads.”

Capital One Arena holds more than just hockey games for the Capitals. The professional basketball franchise in D.C., the Washington Wizards, also have their home games in Capital One Arena, but the venue also holds concerts as well as other types of events.

But the arena continues to go through other positive changes to combat the climate crisis, according to Eichenberg.

“We have replaced all of our metal halide sport lights in the bowl to energy-efficient LEDs and are transitioning all of our other arena lights to LEDs,” Eichenberg said. “We partner with DCSEU (DC Sustainable Energy Utility) to identify potential greening opportunities to offset our energy consumption.

“We partner with WGL to provide energy to Capital One Arena through a 0.8-megawatt ground-mounted offsite solar supply solution in Frederick County, Maryland,” she said. “The solar energy farm accounts for roughly a quarter of our power annually.”

Eichenberg also went on to explain how WGL — a family of energy utilities based in Washington, D.C. — contributes to reducing emissions from the arena.

“WGL also donates carbon offsets to counterbalance emissions from Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, concerts, and other events,” Eichenberg said.

Since the start of NHL Green, the league has made some important strides and that has made companies want to work with them to make their sport more energy efficient. One of those companies is Chemours, a spinoff of DuPont, which focuses on finding climate solutions through chemistry. 

Cynthia Salitsky, the global communications leader at Chemours, shared how NHL Green made Chemours want to partner with the league.

“The NHL promotes best practices and innovations that ultimately help to lower the ecological impact of the sport,” Salitsky said. “The NHL aspires to ensure that hockey thrives by addressing the places and spaces where hockey is played – especially indoor ice arena infrastructure.” 

Salitsky also shared how both the NHL and Chemours hope these changes will have a positive impact for future generations.

“Chemours has been a leader in refrigerant innovation to tackle upcoming regulatory and environmental challenges within this infrastructure, and the partnership with the NHL to provide refrigerant options for community rinks across North America will hopefully ensure that community rinks – which function as community hubs and sports venues – thrive for future generations,” Salitsky said. 

“The opportunity to educate even more rink operators on our value proposition continues to be our focus, so that everyone in the industry has the knowledge to make informed decisions on what solution is right for them.”

Like the 30 other NHL franchises, the Washington Capitals are partnered with the Green Sports Alliance. According to Garret Wong, member services manager at the Alliance, the NHL’s ability to reach out to its fanbase has been key.

“One component that the NHL Green has done an exceptionally tremendous job at is its focus towards fan engagement and how the NHL teams across the league are communicating and reaching their fans,” Wong said. “Providing that message of community stewardship and individual leadership to their respective fans and patrons has elevated the platform for the organizations to impact the community outside of the walls of their facilities.”

Sports has always been a social construct that brings people together, no matter their background. From highlighting issues that deal with civil rights to fair pay. With that in mind, perhaps it is time for sports to highlight the necessity of preserving the earth.

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Read more about the Green Sports Alliance.

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