WASHINGTON -- The National Hockey League participated in a Sports and Sustainability conference at the White House Thursday morning in which top government officials and influential sports executives came together to discuss the current state of greening in professional sports and the industry's growing embrace of energy efficiency, water conservation, smarter recycling, healthier food and the role sport can play in spreading the environmental message.
The forum was tied to the Administration's Better Buildings Initiative.
Former New York Rangers goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Mike Richter, now a principal at Healthy Planet Partners, was among the panelists.
"There is a perfect intersection between the environment and human health," Richter said "It should not be considered a rare thing for sports to be talked about in the same breath as the environment."
Richter addressed the League's pursuit of practical, cost-effective solutions to ecological issues, citing the establishment of the NHL's metrics tracking system, which is designed to capture and analyze a facility's energy, water and waste data.
"We need to make our buildings as efficient as the athletes that use them," Richter said.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson welcomed attendees to the event and recognized the NHL as the only professional sports league aligned with the EPA's Green Power Partnership.
Jackson was joined by Allen Hershkowitz, a Senior Scientist for the Natural Resource Defense Council, who noted the NHL's leadership in the environmental movement, and the leadership within the League itself.
"An organization is a shadow of its leadership," said Hershkowitz.
"A few years ago, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman asked me to lead a discussion in front of the League's Board of Governors. I was terrified, talking to franchise owners about the environment. But as it turned out, these folks got it. They were very oriented toward this particular cause."
In 2010, the Board of Governors approved a plan to commit all 30 Member Clubs to a post-game food recovery initiative. Since that time, the League has diverted 210 tons of prepared, but untouched, food from landfills, repurposing the resource to provide more than 300,000 meals to local shelters throughout North America.
"This is a big, big deal," says Richter. "The elegance is turning what was once a waste product into something that is productive for society."
When asked why he thought the NHL has been successful in gaining support for its environmental platform, Richter responded, "the NHL is focusing on people, not just trees and animals."
"Through food recovery -- feeding the hungry -- or through the initiative to restore water to the habitats we live and play in -- the League is connecting to the environment on a human level."
Richter went on to describe a hockey player's dependence on the natural environment, specifically referring to the fact that a majority of NHL players -- past and present -- learned to play the game on the frozen ponds of Canada.
Realizing the threat that pollution and carbon emissions has on the planet, NHL players have been quick to take action.
In 2007, nearly 500 NHL players joined forces to drive early support for the environment through the NHLPA's Carbon Neutral Challenge, a program designed to offset the emissions produced by their frequent travel.
Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference started the initiative, convincing players to lessen their environmental impact. Ference's devotion to living a sustainable lifestyle has since been showcased on National Geographic's Beyond the Puck (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/beyond-the-puck/).
Bernadette Mansur, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and NHL Green, recognized the importance of this conversation in professional sports on accelerating a cultural change on environmental issues.
"It was an honor for the NHL to be invited down to the White House Council on Environmental Quality," says Mansur. "The League was well represented."
Videos of the event are now available on the White House Council for Environmental Quality Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouseCEQ