Visitors to New York City's Times Square on Wednesday had a unique opportunity -- to drink from the Stanley Cup, a time-honored NHL tradition, only in this case a 21-foot high, 6,600-pound replica which will serve as a working water fountain, dispensing pure, clean New York City tap water from several spouts at the base of the fountain.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joined members of NBC Sports and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection at a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. On this occasion, the 35-pound Stanley Cup stood in front of the replica where fans will be able to drink.
The water provided at the Stanley Cup fountain comes from the pristine Catskill Mountains 100 miles from NYC. NBC Sports, the NHL and NYC Water are providing reusable souvenir cups to the public.
"Thank you to the City of New York and Commissioner [Carter] Strickland for working with us and giving everybody the opportunity to drink terrific New York City water," Bettman said.
The unveiling of the Stanley Cup water fountain comes on the heels of Tuesday's announcement, signaling the conclusion of the NHL's Gallons for Goals initiative for 2011-12. The program represented a season-long commitment focusing on the importance of freshwater as a natural resource. To further this initiative, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) produced a PSA titled "Hockey Depends on Water," illustrating a joint effort with the League to preserve, protect and restore bodies of freshwater.
Through Gallons for Goals, the NHL Foundation pledged to restore 1,000 gallons of water to a critically dewatered river for every goal scored during the 2011-12 regular season. Since Oct. 6, the League's 30 Member Clubs have combined to score 6,726 goals. Through Bonneville Environmental Foundation's (BEF) innovative Water Restoration Certificate Program, the League will replenish a critically dewatered stream in the Northwest United States with over 6.7 million gallons of water.
Bettman, standing in front of the Stanley Cup fountain, thanked Strickland and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection for their partnership in constructing an extremely unique version of NYC's Water-On-the-Go fountains. The city's program is designed to promote clean, safe, affordable and delicious NYC water throughout the five boroughs.
"It is fitting for a replica of the Stanley Cup to dispense New York City water because we truly have a championship water supply," Strickland said.
Strickland went on to encourage NHL fans and the residents of New York City to make the switch to tap water, starting with a taste from the Stanley Cup fountain.
"What makes NYC water a great choice -- and you will have the chance to try it yourself in the next few days -- it has zero calories, it is affordable, it is convenient and it is green. The best thing NHL fans can do for the environment is to drink tap water. Every time you have a drink from the tap, it is one less bottle sent to landfill."
In an earlier statement, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg reinforced the importance of water to his constituents, comparing its quality to that of the Eastern Conference regular season champions.
"One thing the New York Rangers have in common with our city's tap water: neither can be beat," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The Stanley Cup replica highlights one of our greatest resources."
Hockey's dependence on water, especially frozen water, is evident. Strickland, noting the environmental benefits of choosing to drink tap water from the fountain, also recognized how vital a sustainability platform is to the NHL.
"Winter sports, certainly outdoor hockey and skiing, is jeopardized by climate change. I'm a big skier -- that's how I got this," he said, pointing to his injured knee while supporting himself with crutches. "Climate change is a huge issue for sports that depend on cold weather."
In December 2011, the NHL was presented with the Sport for Environment Award from Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes and develops the use of sport for positive social change. The League instituted the NHL Green program in 2010 as a year-round commitment to making the League and its clubs more ecologically responsible, while raising awareness of environmental issues and educating employees and fans about sustainable practices. The League has since implemented initiatives focused on reducing energy and water consumption and eliminating the production waste throughout all 30 NHL arenas and at its NYC headquarters.
Liam McHugh, event emcee and host of NHL Live on the NBC Sports Network closed the event, but opened the Stanley Cup fountain to the public, prodding those in attendance to take the first sip.
"As someone who lives in New York City, I can tell you the water here is the greatest water in America," he said. "Anyone who has had a bagel or pizza -- you know what I'm talking about, right New Yorkers? I think it is time for everyone to make their way over to the platform, and experience what it is like to drink from the Cup."