It is in a context of energy crisis, a consequence of the war in Ukraine, that the first shots of the French ice hockey championship will be distributed this Friday, September 9. While ice rinks are perceived as very energy-intensive structures, is the good performance of the Synerglace Ligue Magnus season threatened? A few days earlier, around thirty public swimming pools temporarily closed their doors, their operator, Vert Marine – which also manages ice rinks – saying it was unable to cope with the explosion in prices.
Added to this is the risk of a power shortage this winter. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, called at the end of August for the “energy sobriety” so as to avoid measures of « rationing ».
On the side of the French Ice Hockey Federation as well as clubs, if no concern is apparent for the 2022-2023 financial year, all consider the problem very serious. “It is also important that our sport, through its equipment, be exemplary”insists Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, the president of the federation.
Yet rejects him « the image of Epinal of the ice rink which is expensive » both economically and energetically. “A skating rink today is not at all the same as it was fifteen years ago”, he insists. And to take the example of Polesud, in Grenoble, the lair of the Brûleurs de loups, the reigning French champions.
The Magnus League’s largest ice rink, commissioned in 2001, was renovated in 2020. Installation of a heat recovery system that operates a new air handling unit, maximizing the recovery of waste energy such as heat from the production of cold to supply the showers, lighting of the large track entirely by LED bulbs… The work allows energy savings of nearly 35%.
President of Synerglace, leader in ice rink rental and title sponsor of the French first division since 2018, Philippe Aubertin also warns against hasty generalization. But he concedes that the indoor park in France – around 120 ice rinks – is not optimized. “The rinks absolutely have to be well insulated. Today, this is not necessarily the case everywhere. There was a time when more attention was paid to the shape of the structure and to the cathedral that the mayor wanted to leave after his term of office, than to the technical qualities that the premises might have. »
The federation and its partner are working on the development of a zero carbon ice rink by 2030. « By thinking about both how it can produce energy, but also how it can consume less of it, we realized that we could achieve this quite easily », develops Mr. Aubertin. Estimated budget for this 1,500-space project: around 10 million euros.
« We want to be good students and participate in the effort to save energy », underlines Pierre-Yves Gerbeau for his part. But, he continues, while the rinks do not belong to the clubs or the federation, “We must be given the right to look and the right to veto the projects of private or public partners”.
Thinking about the schedule
In the meantime, the simple reduction of the ice surface would already make it possible to melt a little the energy consumption of hockey rinks. The format 60 meters long by 26 meters wide, instead of the usual 30 meters, has even already been adopted in countries where the puck is king. If the use of synthetic ice is possible for training, it is however unlikely to become widespread for competition: the quality of sliding is not comparable.
« It is no longer possible to produce ice in the middle of a heat wave », Anne Vignot (EELV), mayor of Besançon
More broadly, a reflection could also be carried out on the calendars of the competitions. This summer, in the middle of a heat wave, Swiss and French municipalities decided to delay putting ice on their ice rink from August to September. This was the case in Sierre, in the canton of Valais, but also in Besançon. “Producing cold means consuming energy, producing greenhouse gases. It is no longer possible to produce ice in the middle of a heat wave”justified Anne Vignot (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts), the mayor of the Franche-Comté capital.
The players put on their skates in the heart of summer. “Perhaps the first solution would be to postpone the recovery to October-Novemberadvances Jonathan Paredes, the coach of the Cergy-Pontoise Jokers. It is an option. But vsWhat is needed above all is to think of solutions in relation to global warming. »