Tackle Carbon Pollution: Save Pond Hockey

A new NWF report: On Thin Ice: Warming Winters Put America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage at Risk tells how this year’s winter that wasn’t has impacted hunters and anglers across America.  I have another thing the non-winter has impacted: pond hockey – and a way you can help save it.

World Pond Hockey Championship (Photo by New Brunswick Tourism/Flickr)
For me pond hockey was a winter rite of passage and I have the scars to prove it. Sophomore year in high school we were playing hockey on a pond in Bassett Park (not the one by the band shell, the other one) and somehow Scott Ely’s skate caught me under the chin. We played on as we always did.  The three stitches on my chin are a constant reminder of fond childhood memories.

Before Bassett Park, it was a small wetland (if you can call it that) next to the Rinaldo’s house.  When shoveled off, its outline vaguely resembled Europe. There was always a grassy knoll or two where the puck would get hung up.  We played for hours upon hours.  I didn’t care if I couldn’t feel my toes. I was trying to be Gilbert Perreault (highlights here) leading the Buffalo Sabres to a Stanley Cup.

Climate Change Threat to Pond Hockey

Carbon pollution and climate change threatens to erase future generations’ ability to enjoy similar experiences. The fourth warmest winter in U.S. history has brought it home to places like Buffalo.  NOAA found that the average temperature for February was 5.4 degrees above normal.  How does this affect pond hockey? This is also what NOAA found:

The unusually warm temperatures also resulted in Lake Erie remaining open…with the lake temperature at 34 degrees on the [February] 29th . . . the same as at the end of January. The normal date of lake freeze is January 21st . . . placing us well past the normal date and suggesting a strong potential that this season could join the four other seasons where Lake Erie did not freeze.

This caused the annual Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament on Lake Erie at Erie Basin Marina to move to land. What was expected to be a celebration of winter heritage was thrown out onto the streets!

The melting of the pond hockey heritage is not only occurring in Buffalo. A recent scientific study found that over the last 60 years climate change has steadily shortened the outdoor skating season in Canada. It also found that at the rate of global warming over the last 30 years, outdoor skating in Southwest Canada could disappear by mid-century. The study ominously concludes:

The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of Canadian identity and culture. Wayne Gretzky learned to skate on a backyard skating rink; our results imply that such opportunities may not available to future generations of Canadian children.

How You Can Help

Just as NWF’s new report speaks to the hunting and angling community, the state of pond hockey should be a call to action for all hockey fans.  Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released proposed limits to the carbon pollution from new power plants that is contributing to climate change. The new proposal would, among other things, require new power plants to emit approximately 60% less carbon pollution than an average coal-fired power plant. Supporting these carbon pollution limits can help to tackle climate change that threatens to make the outdoor skating rink a distant memory.

Take ActionSo join NWF to save pond hockey and winter-dependent wildlife species, such as the moose, for the next generation.

Update April 18, 2012: I’d like to thank Sen. John Kerry (@JohnKerry) for voicing his concerns about the loss of this valued treasure: