Energy Face-off (2nd period): Jetting around in the NHL

The NHL starts up its season today and by the end of the weekend will have played games all across North America. With the Winnipeg Jets back in the League, there are seven teams in Canada plus 23 based in the US, for a total of 30 teams. Although they are divided equally across the Western and Eastern Conferences, there are actually two Eastern Time Zone (ET) teams who frequently travel west to play in the Western Conference and one non-ET team in the Eastern Conference. While you figure out who they are (answers at the bottom!), give a thought to how much flying your favorite team will do in the course of an 82-game, regular season, half of which will be played away from home.

As things go, some teams have to travel more than others. Take some of the east coast teams like the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders, who, according to the NHL Super Schedule tend to fly around 48,000 km per regular season. My own favorite team, the Calgary Flames, usually clock up much more-over 80,000 km or an average of around 2,000 km per away game.

Carbon offsets for air travel

Many fans believe that too many back to back games at the wrong time or a few too many long-haul flights can make or break a team’s success toward winning the Stanley Cup: clearly, too much flying is not a good thing! Former Flames defenceman Andrew Ference, who currently plays with the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins, saw an opportunity to do something about this in 2007. He worked with the David Suzuki Foundation to set up the Carbon Neutral Challenge, encouraging more than 500 hockey players to purchase Gold Standard offsets for their air travel. In its first season the program helped “check” more than 4,200 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Hockey fans can acquire carbon offsets for air travel (or for other uses of energy) at the time of ticket purchase. Air Canada, for example, provides carbon offsets through an association called zerofootprint. Another option is to purchase from a carbon offset provider who calculates the emissions associated with your travel plan, then invests your fees into carbon credits associated with projects such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and tree planting. One example of an offset provider is Planetair, managed by the Unisféra International Center, a non-profit Montreal research and consulting centre whose mission is to contribute to the advancement of sustainable development in Canada and around the world.

As part of the Energy Diet Challenge, air travel of the participating families to events like the Urban Energy Challenge and One-Litre Challenge is being offset by Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada through a program with Tree Canada.

Answers to the hockey trivia questions

The two ET teams playing in the Western Conference are the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. The team playing “out of position” in the Eastern Conference is the Winnipeg Jets, probably just for this season as they had to take on the schedule of the franchise they replaced, the Atlanta Thrashers.