news_4b_0.jpg
Credit: Jeff Vinick

Vancouver Canucks player Willie Mitchell (pictured with his beagle, Pinot, left) is one of a growing number of hockey players who are taking the prospect of climate change seriously. “I grew up on the north end of Vancouver Island, so I love the environment,” says Mitchell, a native of Port McNeill.

“To minimize your impact on the environment is, in my opinion, your duty. You have to live life and do things that are important, but to sit there and not take the time to recycle is being selfish.”

Mitchell often walks or cycles to Canucks practice from his Yaletown home, and drives his Toyota Prius when it rains. His choice of wheels has drawn a few wisecracks from teammates: “They call it the potato,” Mitchell says with a laugh.

The Canucks defenceman is finding increasing support from players throughout the NHL. Last season, the NHL Players Association worked with the David Suzuki Foundation to create the NHL Carbon Neutral Challenge. The foundation calculated each team’s total air travel, and players could buy carbon credits to help offset the related greenhouse gas emissions. In total, 523 players agreed to take part, including 15 Canucks. Plans are underway to bring back the Carbon Neutral Challenge again this season.

Mitchell isn’t the only B.C. native to bring an eco-consciousness to the NHL. Cranbrook native Scott Niedermayer of the Anaheim Ducks is a devoted conservationist who is working to stop a ski resort development in B.C.’s Jumbo Creek area.

Hockey players who would block frozen pucks with their teeth would seem to make strange bedfellows with conservationists, but Mitchell sees it as a perfect fit. “If global warming continues, then the outdoor game and the shinny won’t be happening,” he notes.