Monday, April 16, 2012

As Playoffs Heat Up, NHL Aims to Ice Global Warming

Photo credit: Chealion/Michael J. at Flickr
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.