NHL going green for Earth Hour and beyond

The third annual Earth Hour on Saturday is shaping up to be bigger than the last, and teams around the NHL are in full eco-mode for the occasion.

The third annual Earth Hour on Saturday is shaping up to be bigger than the last, and teams around the NHL are in full eco-mode for the occasion.

The World Wildlife Fund is encouraging people across the world to shut off the lights, or at the very least dim them, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. local time.

This means some NHL arenas, in support of the initiative, won't be lighting up city skylines like they normally would, and one game is even being played early for the occasion.

In Nashville, a tilt between the Predators and the Los Angeles Kings was originally scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET, but since both cities are very active in the Earth Hour festivities, the teams moved the game up to 5 p.m. so it doesn't conflict with the blackout hour.

"Nashville is one of the flagship centres" for Earth Hour, said Raquel Toombs, promotions manager for the Predators.

The team has also been running eco-minded public service announcements all season long to raise environmental awareness.

"We're taking our steps to do our part," she said.

After the game and a live concert in front of the arena, the lights will go out at the Sommet Center and at various businesses and bars up and down Nashville's main street, all part of a night-long celebration of the event.

"I think it's an important initiative for everyone to get behind," she said.

Spotlights dimmed

In Toronto, the Air Canada Centre's distinctive spotlights and outdoor signage will be dimmed for the hour while the Leafs take on the Boston Bruins inside. Concourse, washroom and parking lights also won't shine as bright during that time.

It's all part of a $6-million initiative to make the ACC more eco-friendly.

The Ottawa Senators will be away, but that doesn't mean the lights will be out at Scotiabank Place, which is hosting Disney on Ice for the weekend.

The figure-skating gala will limit the Senators' involvement in Earth Hour, but communications director Brian Morris said that there are other arena programs in place to promote eco-friendly habits.

"We began the 'Think Green, Go Red' campaign last year, and it has continued through the 2008-09 season," he said in an e-mail.

The program's objectives include methods to reduce, reuse and recycle in at Scotiabank Place, and to "educate our employees and fans on what they can do to make a difference."

The team is also a major sponsor of this year's Earth Day festivities in Ottawa.

Sign (black)out

The Atlanta Thrashers are hosting the Senators on Saturday, but one of their arena's most iconic signs won't be lit up during Earth Hour. Phillips Arena is shutting off the lights on the "Atlanta" letters emblazoned along one side of the building to signal its involvement in the festivities.

"It's important to get the message out to the fan base that there is an issue out there, and that [the environment] is a real concern," said Trey Feazell, senior vice-president of the arena.

The Thrashers are also in the middle of hosing their first-ever "Green Week," and have put in place many resource-saving initiatives over the last year or so. 

Many NHL players are already on the green bandwagon as well, all in an effort to reduce the league's carbon footprint.

Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer drives a hybrid car and reuses grocery bags, and Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell has invested in wind-powered electricity for his home.

Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara carpools when he can't ride his bike across town, and teammate Andrew Ference eats organic food for his pre- and post-game meals.

"Best of all, I'm hearing of more and more players in the dressing rooms talking about going green," Ference said in a release from the NHL Players' Association, which signed up 420 players for its "carbon-neutral challenge" program this season.