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The NHL, Green Week and Skewed Water Numbers

The NHL's first-ever Green Week

Green Week for the NHL

This week, the NHL is drawing attention to water as part of its first ever Green Week, showcasing its award-winning sustainability efforts in an attempt to lead-by-example to influence its fans and partners to make better choices when it comes to the environment. However, the NHL’s numbers for water seem to be a bit skewed and, as we all know from math class, if you start with the wrong number, you end up with the wrong result.

On March 13th, 2016, in a post called, “NHL arenas using water more efficiently“, the NHL states:

The average American uses approximately 2,000 gallons of water per day — twice the global average.

Whoa there! I know that Americans — North Americans — are water hogs compared to the rest of the world. But 2,000 gallons a day? That seems to be a bit on the high side. Since Google is my friend, and Bing and Siri are too, I made some searches and found that it is.

Out of proportion. Way out of proportion. Here are a couple of bona fide sources on what that number should be:

On a page the United States Geological Survey (USGS) updated earlier this year entitled, “How much water does the average person use at home per day?” the number tops out at 100 gallons per person per day:

Estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day.

Even the US Environmental Protection Agency – who, rightly so, has applauded and awarded the NHL for its greening initiatives, says the typical family of four uses around 400 gallons of water per day. That particular page has a .pdf version of the content that was originally published way back in 2008, but their 100 gallon per person estimate still matches the USGS’s numbers.

Is This Splitting Hairs?

Well, you might ask, what does this matter? Maybe it was just a typo or maybe that 2,000 gallon figure is taking into account other uses of water that the USGS and EPA, and others, disregard. But the reason that it matters is those numbers are used to show how people’s personal water consumption relates to the needs of the NHL’s ice rinks. Those 2,000 gallons per person per day are used to demonstrate that a year’s worth of water for one person is the equivalent of 50 sheets of ice. Which is an incredible number!

And it’s just wrong.

NHL arenas are special venues, not the same as your neighbourhood rink where there can be a dozen or more resurfacings done on a particular day, 7 days a week most of them for at least 8 months a year. NHL arenas rarely have other hockey teams using their venues – there are exceptions but that’s not the rule. There are morning skates on game days for both the home and away teams, each held at separate times; a resurfacing is done before a team hits the ice, again after the first team has finished, and a third time once the second team has finished.

Then, 40 minutes before game time, the teams come out for a pre-game warmup and the resurfacers are run (two of them) when they’ve finished. Then in between the first and second period, then the second and third and then later, when the crowd has gone home, at the end of the game, leaving fresh ice for the next day.

That means 7 resurfacings on game day. Each team has 41 home games, and about 4 preseason games, so if we use 45 home ice events, multiplied by a typical ice resurfacer’s water capacity of 195 gallons, the amount of water needed purely for resurfacing is 7×45 (315) x 195 =   61,425 gallons of water. That isn’t considering the amount of water needed to build the ice to its 1″ thickness, which is estimated, as the NHL states, at between 12,000 and 15,000 gallons. So for games alone, an NHL arena is using 73,425 gallons of water (at the low end) – and I’m not even considering that both ice resurfacers have probably been fully filled each time they hit the ice. So the amount of water the NHL uses to make and maintain ice on game days compared to our estimated water consumption of 100 gallons a day, would take you or me the equivalent of 2 years worth of water for one sheet of ice.

Practices are another story, Those take place at a facility other than the arena where games are held. I’m going to assume those rinks are, for the most part, shared rinks. But just for fun, let’s assume the water use for a practice arena is about the same as the case for home games. That would mean it would take 4 years for you or me to consume as much water as what two NHL arenas need for one season.

Sustainability is extremely important and the NHL is excelling at being green and is a model that, as hockey fans, we can all be proud of – especially compared to other professional sports teams in North America. The League is not paying lip service to a trend: it truly wants to reduce its carbon footprint, to use green energy everywhere it can — and finding ways to source and use the energy it needs in smarter, more efficient ways.

But rinks ARE water hogs: there’s no doubt about that.

The NHL can help spread awareness and get buy-in from their fans to think green, be more responsible and consider the future, and the future for our planet. And it can do that, even when the right numbers are used.

1 Comment

  1. Art Stutsman

    Bloated numbers do the cause no good…..not for the side trying to tout their accomplishments nor for the side trying to bastardize the “denial” crowd. If people would just sit back, evaluate their habits and do the right things, individually we could make a huge difference.

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