Sunny Days Ahead for Sports? NHL Introduces First Sustainability Plan


Earlier this summer, the NHL made sports history, releasing the first-ever league-wide sustainability plan in major professional sports. With two of their biggest goals being to reduce impact on climate change and to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, the potential impact on solar could be huge. 

“Our sport can trace its roots to frozen freshwater ponds, to cold climates,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wrote in the report’s introduction. “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.” Bettman based these remarks in part on a 2012 study reporting a 20% to 30% decrease in the length of the Canadian skating season over the past 50 years.

Additionally, the report’s conclusions draw from data collection, measuring emissions, and studying ways to limit pollution and use greener technology over the past several years. Each arena was analyzed, and individual recommendations were made to the stadiums. In partnership with both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Protection Agency, the NHL is able to track and analyze data that capture nearly 40 different categories of energy and water use, waste, and recycling.

The report highlights changes the league has already made, as well as directions for the future. For example, the reports claims that the NHL reduced greenhouse gas emissions 28% in a short period, from 533,433 metric tons in 2011-12 to 385,912 metric tons in 2012-13.

After reviewing the report, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released the following statement:

“From San Jose to Winnipeg and Tampa Bay to Montreal, communities that embrace professional hockey are embracing solar energy, too…. We’re proud to share our ‘green team’ colors with the NHL and look forward to being part of a winning ‘power play’ that benefits both of our great nations as well as the environment.”

The report spotlights the use of solar at the Los Angeles King’s Staples Center. “In 2008 the … Staples Center installed 1,727 solar panels on its rooftop. This 364-kilowatt photovoltaic solar-energy system provides up to 20% of the facility’s energy needs on a non-game day and a small portion of energy on game day.”

Renewable energy is an important part of the report. “We believe it’s important to invest in clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro in North America. Supporting clean energy will help achieve long-term benefits for our business, such as price stability.”

The NHL has long been a leader in the greening of sports in America. As a member of the Green Sports Alliance and following the creation of NHL Green in 2010 as an environmental sustainability initiative to promote green business practices across the League, the NHL has moved to “reduce the use of natural resources in business operations, to track and measure the environmental impact of the sport and to inspire fans and partners to commit to environmental stewardship.”

The sustainability report is part of the NHL Green initiative, which the league set up in 2010 to coordinate green business practices across the NHL’s franchises. The program aims to “reduce the use of natural resources in business operations, to track and measure the environmental impact of the sport and to inspire fans and partners to commit to environmental stewardship,” the NHL says.

The NHL is also a member of the Green Power Partnership with the EPA. According to the EPA, “in addition to measuring the consumption of energy, water, and waste in all NHL arenas, and working to reduce resource usage and reuse assets, the NHL supports the green power market.”

With hockey season right around the corner, we can expect more coverage of the NHL’s environmental goals. Hopefully, other sports leagues will step up to the puck as well.

What does this all mean for solar? As the NHL continues to pursue its sustainability goals, solar will be a strong component. That means sunnier days for everyone.