Championship teams depend on superstar players to perform like superstars. The Pittsburgh Penguins know this full well with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin anchoring the franchise for 14 and 13 completed seasons, respectively. However, two players can’t win a Cup by themselves. Less heralded players must play contributing roles and supplement the top guns. Pittsburgh, again, knows this well.
Nick Bonino became a folk hero in 2016. Maxim Talbot scored the only two Penguin goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. And Ben Lovejoy ate considerable blue line minutes for the Penguins and three other NHL franchises. The 35-year-old defenseman announced his retirement on Aug. 28.
New Hampshire Youth Turned Pro
Lovejoy grew up in an athletic family in Concord, New Hampshire. His father played hockey at Colby College, in Maine, and his mother was a two-time All-American on the University of Massachusetts lacrosse team. Lovejoy played prep school hockey at the Cardigan Mountain School, in Canaan, NH, and the Deerfield Academy, in Deerfield, MA. Both are respected hockey spots in New England. He went undrafted by NHL teams, but his efforts earned a spot at Boston College in 2002. After one season and narrowly missing the Frozen Four, he transferred to Dartmouth College in his home state of New Hampshire.
Lovejoy helped the Big Green to the Ivy League Title in 2007, their first in 27 years, and their first ECAC Regular Season Championship in 2006. In the middle of that season, Lovejoy was offered a free agent contract by the Montreal Canadiens. But he declined to return to Hanover for his final year of schooling and development. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth. He also played on the Big Green lacrosse team as a defender and helped the unit to winning records every year he played.
On the ice, Lovejoy earned a spot on the ECAC’s Third Team All-Conference and signed a contract with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals to conclude the 2006-07 season.
The next year, he signed with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Pittsburgh AHL affiliate. He earned his keep with a plus-16 rating, 2 goals, 18 assists, and 20 points across 72 regular-season games. Lovejoy’s winning ways continued in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He notched 10 points across 23 playoff games and helped the Penguins to the Final, where they fell in six games to the Chicago Wolves. Ben had a cup of coffee in the NHL the following season and was on the team’s “Black Aces” when the Pens topped the Detroit Red Wings for the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Lovejoy worked to find a spot in the Penguins rotation over the next few seasons. He set his reputation as a smart skater and a quality defensive presence. He earned the nickname “Reverend” or “The Rev,” after the Reverend Lovejoy character from The Simpsons, and took it in stride. “It’s an uncommon name and that character has made it famous, so I’ve embraced that.”
His Pittsburgh time ended when the team traded Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 6, 2013, in exchange for a 2014 fifth-round draft pick, which turned into promising prospect Anthony Angello. In California, Lovejoy’s play stayed steady. He posted his career-high in scoring in the 2013-14 season, with 5 goals and 13 assists for 18 points, tying his 2011 season points output in Pittsburgh but with more goals. He famously fought Joe Pavelski in the 2014-15 season (hilariously contradicting his name) and helped the Ducks to two Pacific Division Championships.
Second Pittsburgh Stint: Name on the Cup
In the middle of the 2014-15 season, Anaheim traded Lovejoy back to Pittsburgh in exchange for Simon Despres. Lovejoy resumed his role in the Pittsburgh defense. He reached his career-high point total in 2016 when he played in all 24 Penguin playoff games. He scored two goals and four assists for six points. Most notably, he recorded the assist on Bryan Rust’s winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. For his efforts, Lovejoy became the first New Hampshire native to lift the Stanley Cup. For his day with the Cup, he brought it to his sixth-ninth
After claiming the Cup, Lovejoy signed a three year, $2.66 million-per-year contract with a division rival, the New Jersey Devils. There, Lovejoy aided in mentoring Will Butcher and helped the Devils to the playoffs in 2018, the team’s first postseason bid in six seasons. The next and final year of his contract saw Lovejoy traded to the Dallas Stars for Connor Carrick and a 2019 third-round pick (Graeme Clark). In 20 games, he only contributed two points but served his defensive role well and played all 13 Stars playoff games and fell just a game short of the Western Conference Final, losing to the St. Louis Blues.
Lovejoy was a winner at every level of hockey he ever played. He lifted Dartmouth, Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, New Jersey, and Dallas to playoff contention and claimed hockey’s ultimate prize as a textbook “glue guy” on the Penguins. Across 11 seasons and 544 career NHL games, Lovejoy scored 20 goals and recorded 81 assists for 101 points. He added 76 games of postseason play and scored 5 goals and 11 assists for 16 career playoff points. Lovejoy was not an offensive driver. He was a needed and respected warrior and penalty killer who could contribute offensively when called upon. His playing career is complete. And there still may be enormous contributions on the sport still to come from Lovejoy.
Perhaps his most important contribution will come with an off-ice commitment. In 2017, Lovejoy became the first NHL player to pledge to donate his brain upon his passing to the Concussion Legacy Project to research Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). “I am lucky. I have had very little head trauma throughout my career. But I have had teammates, both high profile stars and minor role players, who have struggled with concussions. By pledging to donate my brain, I hope it helps the team at Concussion Legacy Foundation and their collaborators at Boston University and the VA continue their work to cure concussions and CTE.”
Lovejoy may yet have much more to contribute to the sport. But his respected playing career is complete.