By Vishal Gulati
New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) He’s a legendary Russian player and will play a symbolic ‘Last Ice Hockey Game at the North Pole’ in the Arctic in the spring 2019. He is part of a UN initiative to draw attention to the scary speed at which the polar ice is thawing.
It’s an effort blessed by Pope Francis, who has accepted a UN Environment invitation to serve as honorary captain of one of the teams. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will the Pontiff’s counterpart.
“The Last Game is a United Nations initiative to draw global attention to climate change in the North Pole,” UN Environment Patron of the Polar Regions Vyacheslav Fetisov told IANS.
Also, The Last Game is not going to be a one-off event.
“We are going to play in different parts of the world in the name of The Last Game. It could be in Shanghai,” said the 60-year-old legendary ice hockey player, who believes sports can help unify the world in combating polar warming.
One of the best defendes in the world ice hockey history, Fetisov, during his career, won two gold medals at the Winter Olympics and is a two-time winner of the US Stanley Cup, considered one of the most important championships in the sport, with the Detroit Red Wings.
“The Last Game aims to bring famous people to an unusual place and tell this story to the people around the world as the Arctic is going to face its biggest challenge in the near future,” Fetisov told this IANS correspondent at the recently concluded UN climate change conference in Katowice in Poland, where he came to discuss the promotion of The Last Game.
Fetisov had played his first international tournament in Katowice when he was around 14.
Te project aims to host a symbolic ice hockey game, performed by various sports personalities from all over the world, spearheaded by Fetisov.
The match will take place as per the advice of the scientists on an ice rink at the Barneo expedition camp, about 80 km from the North Pole.
The frightening speed of climate change is particularly visible in the Arctic, UN Environment says.
This winter, the temperature at the North Pole was well above the average. Ships navigated the Arctic Passage without icebreakers for the first time as the age, thickness and extent of sea ice cover in the Arctic decreased.
The Last Game aims to draw attention to the rapid speed of global warming and demonstrate its importance to the well-being of people across the world.
“It’s going to be a proper game of hockey — half of the players are going to be a big athletes and another half is going to politicians, business people and from different sports, also from Paralympics and Special Olympics, as well as Arctic indigenous people and youth.
“The match could represent different continents, different nationalities and the religions. We are going to build a big strong team to fight against the biggest challenge — the climate change. We send the invitation letters to many celebrities, including Hollywood stars and musicians,” Fetisov explained.
“We got the support of the Vatican. Pope Francis blessed our game. We got the support from Prince Albert II of Monaco,” an optimistic Fetisov said.
Prince Albert, whose principality of Monaco aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050, is a former Olympic bobsleigh athlete and is chairing the Sustainability Commission of the International Olympic Committee.
Fetisov, perhaps the first person in Russia to support the campaign to create a marine protected area in the Ross Sea in Antarctica, said his ultimate goal is to fight the biggest challenge – climate change.
“Come to my team. We are going to be the winners, not going to be the losers. We are doing this for a good cause for our planet,” he added, who owes gratitude to his friend, ocean advocate and swimmer Lewis Pugh, for inspiring him to lead The Last Game.
The newest players to join the game are the legendary Annie Thorisdottir, Johann Koss, Jari Kurri and Derek Whitson.
The Last Game has the support of all the Artic countries — the US, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland.
There will be no official winners or losers, but the Arctic will come out triumphant.
No spectators will be brought to the North Pole for The Last Game but will be broadcast across the world.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])