It really is easy to be 'green'

It may sound stupid, but the one thing you need for ice hockey is, after all, ice. And some NHLers are concerned if the temperature continues to rise, there may not be much of it left.

In the Fantasy Land where the NHL hangs its shingle, many things are taken for granted. Those things usually are only fully appreciated when the health of someone connected to the game is jeopardized, or when world events are sufficiently grave so as to be unavoidable.

For some reason, though, a major illness has gone unrecognized by the grand majority of the hockey world. And the implications of it are as dire as can be, both on the ice and off it.

The illness is global warming. And the fact we've yet to gain the same, sudden, serious sense of perspective now that Earth is sick is something that troubles an increasing number of NHLers.

"It's hard to fathom some of the things that are happening now," said Flames defenseman Andrew Ference. "I live in Canmore, Alta., in the mountains, and I see the huge changes in winters and summers. Everything is changing rapidly in my lifetime, which is pretty frightening."

If you're not as environmentally conscientious as Ference -- or even if you haven't seen the brilliant movie "An Inconvenient Truth," about former U.S. vice president Al Gore's fight against global warming -- here are some facts that ought to send non-weather related chills up your spine:

• According to numerous studies, the 1990s was the warmest decade since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s. In addition, the five hottest years ever recorded all came in the last decade (1998, 2002, 2003, 2001, and 1997).

• A multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report concluded that in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia, average temperatures have increased as much as 4-to-7 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years -- nearly twice the global average.

• The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects global temperatures will rise another 3-to-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

Those facts have widespread, calamitous consequences. For the hockey world, they could include the days of pond hockey and outdoor arenas -- where many current and future pro players learned and honed their craft -- being more endangered.

And it's already happening.

"I grew up playing hockey outdoors and my understanding is it's harder to do that back home any more," said Flyers right winger Sami Kapanen, a native of Finland. "My thinking is, [weather patterns] go in cycles, but in the past few years, we've had really hot summers back home and not that much snow during the winter. Things are changing, so obviously we're doing something wrong.

"There are fewer outdoor rinks and the season you can [keep them frozen for] is shorter. If there's fewer places to skate, it obviously makes it harder to practice on your own. That's not good for the game or the planet."

Ference concurs.

"'An Inconvenient Truth' does a great job of showing us it's not about if something will happen because of global warming -- it's when, and it's now," Ference said. "Yes, our outdoor rinks might be melting, but that's small potatoes compared to the bigger consequences of global warming. But at least people can understand the real effects of what's going on."

Ference doesn't just talk the talk about being more environmentally friendly -- he lives it. And he isn't holding his breath for the NHL to board the bandwagon.

"I'm not going to wait for the NHL to jump on the issue," said Ference, who drives a hybrid car and uses low-energy light bulbs and programmable thermostats in his wind-powered home. "We can't rely on our politicians to come up with different plans or agendas. We have to start at the grassroots level.

"The real responsibility lies with the individual. That's what's been missed by a lot of people, whether they're in pro sports or not. People can preach, but doing it yourself and getting involved on many levels is what really changes things."

Ference said "going green" is easier than many people believe.

"This year, I finally called up the power company and said I wanted to switch to wind power and they made the change instantly," he said. "That's one phone call. How easy is that? It shows you that all it takes is a couple minutes out of your day, or a few dollars out of your paycheck and you can have a positive effect."

Ference also plans to invest in "green technologies" and hopes other athletes will join him in promoting environmental activism.

"I drive my wife crazy sometimes, but she understands it, too," he said about his focus on the environment. "It becomes addicting, just trying to do your part."

Let's hope the NHL and the hockey world does the same.

Adam Proteau's Screen Shots appears every Monday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

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