Wednesday, 17 July 2013

NHL Gets Air Conditioning

It isn't often that you hear of an NHL rink being too warm unless the games are being played in Phoenix in June. And rarely does that happen. It's also rare to hear that an NHL rink needs to turn up the heat literally rather than figuratively. However, the NHL and six NHL teams have signed a deal with a new sponsor as the official HVAC sponsor of the NHL. York, owned and operated by Johnson Controls, is the NHL's newest sponsor, and will partner with six teams as their official HVAC sponsor as well.

Chris Botta, a man whose journalism and reporting I've respected for a long time, reported in SportsBusiness Journal on June 20, 2013 that the York brand decided to sponsor the NHL "to increase brand awareness during its key marketing periods: October and November for heating, and April and May for cooling." In partnering with the NHL as a corporate sponsor, the NHL will provide key marketing spots for York as an official sponsor of the NHL, the NHL Draft, the 2013 Bridgestone Winter Classic, the NHL Awards and NHL Green. Expect to see marketing for York this upcoming season.

Along with the NHL, Botta also reported that York will enter into partnerships with the "Canadiens, Canucks, Flyers and 'three more teams with whom deals are being finalized'" to give the company advertising within those arenas and on publications produced by those teams.

York, for what it's worth, is a major player in the HVAC world, providing residential, professional, and commercial HVAC solutions. York hold the contract for the US Navy's HVAC needs, so they clearly have some ability in the world of HVAC. While NHL buildings rarely fall into disrepair when it comes to maintaining controlled atmospheres within the walls of the arena, I see the NHL's partnership with York as being beneficial to the NHL for one major reason.

There will be a vast number of outdoor games next season as the NHL looks to squeeze as much as it can out of that gimmick. Having rinks set up for days in New York City at Yankee Stadium will take some major work when it comes to the refrigeration unit, and York specializes in this sort of HVAC work. From the refrigeration system to heat exchange to finding uses for excess hot water, the HVAC work done by York for the games in New York City, Los Angeles, and Vancouver alone could save the NHL millions of dollars in energy.

This PDF by the IIHF explains the the basics of an ice rink, but there is a particular section within Chapter 3 that should be noticed.
The refrigeration plant is needed to make and maintain ice on the rink. Refrigeration plant includes the compressor(s), the condenser(s), the evaporator(s), and rink pipes. The heat from the rink is "sucked" by the compressor via the rink pipes and the evaporator and then released to the surrounding via the condenser. The heat from the condenser can be used to heat the ice rink facility and thus save considerably energy and money. Refrigeration plant is the main energy consumer in the ice rink facility. Compressors, pumps and fans needed in the refrigeration system are normally run by electricity and their electricity use may cover over 50% of the total electricity use of an ice rink facility.
Wouldn't you know it, but York, on their website, have those very condensers and heat pumps available for commercial purchase! In short, the refrigeration plant is required if you want to keep and maintain an ice surface, and there is a major HVAC component to doing that. With an outdoor rink, the refrigeration plant becomes much more important as the ice can be affected by Mother Nature's whims in terms of temperature and humidity!

While the NHL may not admit it, this partnership is legitimately a partnership in that if York cannot provide the services that the NHL needs for their plethora of outdoor games next season, expect the partnership to dissolve after one season. However, if York can ensure working ice rinks in places like Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium for an extended length of time, the NHL and York will most likely live amicably together until the outdoor games run their course. The only variable that the NHL cannot control is the weather, but York will do its best to ensure that Mother Nature's external influences don't flaw the biggest cash cow the NHL has going.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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