NHL Embraces Tech for Eco-Friendly Sports
Historians acknowledge that ice hockey dates back to the Middle Ages, but the modern version of the sport emerged in the late 19th century.
Founded in 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) has grown to include 32 member clubs, captivating over 670 million fans through exhilarating games held in arenas across North America.
However, what many fail to recognise is the NHL's trailblazing role in promoting sustainability within the sports industry.
An exclusive interview with Omar Mitchell, the NHL's Vice President of Sustainable Infrastructure and Growth Initiatives, was conducted for a captivating episode of the Better Together podcast. Mitchell delved into the NHL's commitment to environmental stewardship and how technology aids in comprehending and managing the league's carbon footprint. Listen to the complete episode here.
Mitchell expressed the significance of preserving the elements required for hockey's continuation: natural ice, cold weather, and fresh water. He further emphasised the necessity of vibrant and healthy communities where the sport can thrive.
Regarding the environmental impact of indoor games, Mitchell elucidated, "We play in what is essentially a giant refrigerator and consume substantial energy, not to mention the lighting used to illuminate the ice surface."
Environmental sustainability ranks high on the NHL's agenda. Commissioner Gary Bettman initiated the award-winning NHL Green programme in 2010 during the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The programme aimed to integrate sustainable business practices across the League and its member clubs.
In 2014, the NHL released its inaugural sustainability report, marking the first-ever publication of its kind by a professional sports league in North America. The report included a comprehensive carbon inventory for the League, providing initial insights into the environmental impact of its clubs.
Mitchell highlighted the complexity of this endeavour, as no previous comprehensive carbon inventory had been compiled. The process involved meticulous data gathering and analysis from all venues. Despite the effort, this critical step established a baseline for the League, enabling the refinement of goals and strategies.
Following the publication of its second sustainability report in 2018, the NHL recognised the opportunity to modernise data collection and processing through the implementation of a state-of-the-art technology platform.
The collaboration with SAP resulted in the development of NHL Venue Metrics, which now collects and processes data from all clubs. This digital platform builds upon the success of the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights mobile app, which provides real-time player and game data to coaches.
According to the 2014 sustainability report, 70% of the NHL's carbon emissions stemmed from venue energy consumption. Leveraging the data and analytics capabilities of SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP), the NHL has begun extracting insights from the data to take concrete actions to reduce its carbon footprint.
NHL Venue Metrics has also enhanced data accessibility for club and league stakeholders. Analysing the data to drive sustainability decisions can be a challenging task. With the data collected through NHL Venue Metrics, the League can assist individual operators in identifying worthwhile investments or upgrades that contribute to decarbonisation.
An example provided by Mitchell involved the replacement of energy-intensive lightbulbs with LED lights. As venues gradually made the switch, the NHL monitored the subsequent reduction in energy consumption. Not only did the LED lights enhance the energy efficiency, but they also improved the television broadcast experience. These advancements benefitted both the environment and the business.
Moving forward, NHL Venue Metrics, powered by SAP BTP, will unlock fresh opportunities for the NHL, its clubs, and venues to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. This solution facilitates knowledge sharing and the establishment of best practices regarding innovative technologies, products, and services that can help reduce emissions. Moreover, it fosters fan engagement by providing transparency on clubs' sustainability improvements and empowering fans to contribute to the success of NHL Green.
Mitchell stated, "The millions of fans who watch our sport can be positively impacted by the League's efforts and, hopefully, embed sustainability into their lifestyle. That's where we're going to have a network effect that's going to move the needle positively in our climate fight."
This remarkable convergence of technology not only benefits the business, the environment, and the fan experience but also achieves a triumphant hat trick for the NHL.
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