FGCU and the NHL have come together in a gloriously green partnership:
Hockey Sticks to Oyster Reefs Restoration Program
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the National Hockey League (NHL) bring you the Rink2Reef Oyster Reef Restoration Program.
Researchers at FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station, FGCU’s Hockey Clubs and the NHL’s Green Initiative Program have teamed up to help clean-up coastal waterways.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Broken hockey sticks and reducing water pollution may seem unrelated. However, there is a nexus between the two --
Florida Gulf Coast University’s hockey players and their coach, Bob Wasno, have created a program that converts broken sticks into artificial reefs.
Researchers at FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station, FGCU’s Hockey Clubs and the NHL’s Green Initiative Program have teamed up to help clean up coastal waterways by creating artificial oyster reefs and habitats from an unlikely material:
Broken hockey sticks.
Before we get to the sticks, let’s look at oysters, true environmental alchemists that change dirty water into clean water.
Oysters are a type of shellfish. They live in saltwater and brackish estuaries and bays. They are filter feeders, which means they strain the water around them finding plankton and other particles of food while at the same time remove pollutants. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. As little as 100 oysters in an estuary can suction these nutrient pollutants and spit out crystal-clear water at a rate of 5,000 gallons a day. Oysters seek out and attach themselves to the hockey stick artificial reefs. The 9.17-cubic- foot hockey-stick units become home to as many as 400 oysters. A single Rink2Reef habitat could clean 20,000 gallons of water per day. Oysters are nature’s perfect water filter. They constantly cycle and improve water quality.
Now to the Sticks
If you’ve ever watched a hockey game, you know that hockey players break a lot of the 3.2 million sticks that are made every year. But have you ever wondered what happens to all those broken sticks? You’d like to think they’re recycled, but you’d be wrong. These sticks go right from the ice into a dumpster and out to landfills. Hockey sticks are made from non recyclable carbon composite material, held together with resin made of a lactic acid derivative. Both the stick and resin are completely inert and cannot cause harm to the environment.
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are committed to the Rink2Reef Oyster Habitats Waterways Restoration Program. By collecting broken hockey sticks from hockey rinks everywhere and using them to build oyster reefs and habitats we restore stable ecosystems along our coastal waterways and improve water quality. These reefs or habitats can be deployed under docks of businesses, marinas, yacht or boat clubs, private citizens homes, or parks and recreation facilities. Reefs need to be well secured to a sturdy anchored water fixture, making docks the optimal environment. Sticks are found from the NHL, NCAA hockey teams, American Collegiate Hockey Association clubs, high school hockey teams, local hockey clubs, kids’ hockey leagues, and anyone else who plays hockey and breaks sticks.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service have identified oyster reef restoration as a "national priority".
Due to land-use, wastewater infrastructure, and shared water systems -- natural and man-made watersheds, coastlines and water quality have become threatened. Excess sediment, chemicals and nutrients plague many of the nation’s inlets and estuaries -- these can cause harmful algal blooms.
A bloom increases the algae population in an aquatic system and expands the presence of other damaging pollutants, depleting essential water oxygen levels. Together these inhibit the growth of healthy aquatic life.
When oysters spawn, their larvae swim around and feed on phytoplankton (algae). After a few weeks, they look for something hard to settle on, like a carbon-composite hockey stick structure under a dock.
This attracts other filter feeders such as mussels, clams, barnacles and tunicates, which attach to oyster shells. This habitat creates an active ecosystem for other species and small fish populations to once again collect and grow.
“Through the NHL Green initiative, the League is committed to promoting ecologically responsible efforts that raise awareness of the unique connection between hockey and the environment,” stated Omar Mitchel, Vice President of corporate social responsibility for the National Hockey League. “Florida Gulf Coast University’s innovative program to reuse and recycle broken hockey sticks for oyster habitats is one such example, and the NHL applauds these efforts and supports such initiatives.” FGCU’s Rink2Reef Oyster Habitats Waterways Restoration Program is an excellent opportunity for community involvement – oyster reef restoration is a vital environmental effort, with more than 400 programs being conducted in America’s coastal states.
Oysters make a huge economic impact in coastal regions where oysters are harvested for food in markets and on restaurant menus. However, they play an important role as a habitat.
How you can start a Rink2Reef™ program for your community
Below are downloadbale pamphlets and flyers you can use to promote your program. Each print out can reflect your participating rink and program primary contacts.
Instructions to create your own habitats for your waterways!
Organize a collection center at your local rink!
Broken sticks are being accepted locally at the FGCU Vester Field Station in Bonita Springs, FL.
FGCU is excited to have the National Hockey League’s support for Rink2Reef through its Green Initiative Program. The program promotes energy conservation and waste reduction in the sport and environmental action among fans and partners.
The NHL is collecting broken sticks from hockey rinks throughout North America at the professional, college and scholastic levels, as well as from local hockey clubs and youth leagues, to be converted into artificial oyster reefs at Vester.
“The players took this initiative to the next level by contacting the National Hockey League,” said Wasno. “The National Hockey League has thrown its full support behind this.”
The NHL is promoting the program league-wide and in many coastal communities through introductory flyers, unit construction manuals and community meeting announcements for local rinks.