Any hockey reporter who has had the opportunity to interview defenseman Ben Lovejoy through his nine-year career knows that he is a reporter’s dream. His replies to our questions are not only in-depth, descriptive and honest, but he’s also a loquacious wordsmith with a smooth delivery that just about causes you to pause as you process the knowledge he just dropped — as scribes in Anaheim, Pittsburgh, and now New Jersey can attest to. Find a guy who gives you a 60-second answer to each of your five questions and you might even be able to get two posts out of it.
Amidst the New Jersey Devils (successful) preseason we spoke with the veteran blueliner about a myriad of topics and, since it is preseason, we wanted to give the reader a look into what a six-minute conversation with the 33-year-old Dartmouth grad is all about.
On beating the Rangers 2-1 in the final home preseason game:
“When I signed here I was really excited to come play for this Devils team because of the year before, John Hynes’ first year (as New Jersey’s coach), they weren’t the most talented team; but they worked, and they sucked to play against. I felt like last year, we got away from that. We had a little more talent and we were not a difficult team to play against.”
“I think that the mindset in this training camp has just been crazy. The level of intensity, the level of dedication is just…like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We are working harder than I’ve ever worked in a training camp and I think you’re seeing that same game out on the ice when we are playing these exhibition games. I know these aren’t Stanley Cup Final games, these aren’t playoff games. But we are out there playing a style conducive to us being successful.”
“We did that tonight, and we’re a really hard team to play against when we do.”
With a lot of younger players here now, does that speak to them and how quickly they’ve learned this system/places they need to be in certain situations, and things like that?
“We honestly haven’t worked on systems. Everything has been about out-competing, one-on-one battles. We are not out there playing a system that…is going to win us games. We’re out there outworking teams. So these young players have come in with some great speed, some great skill, and I think that they were drafted with this type of style of play in mind; I think they’ve fit right in and really been a huge asset. I think that if we’re going to be successful we need them to be really good and so far, so good.”
Last season we spoke about you mentoring New Jersey’s rookie defenseman Steven Santini and this season with Will Butcher now on board is it safe to assume this will be sort of the same situation in helping him adjust to NHL games and the life of a professional player?
“Since the lockout season, this has sort of been my job. I’ve been paired with young, talented defensemen and I have made it a point of pride to do my best to make their lives easy. To give them confidence, to play the game that they need to play to be successful in the NHL. When they’re doing that it makes our team so much better. I think that we’ve had some defensemen come in and play really well; you see what Butcher has done. I think that Steven Santini was good tonight. I think Mirco Mueller has been outstanding and I thought Viktor Loov was really good tonight too.”
2017 No. 1 pick Nico Hischier beats Ottawa Senators goalie Mike Condon in the first period of the Hockeyville game in Summerside, P.E.I. pic.twitter.com/TggcHhtyAL
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 26, 2017
What are your impressions of Nico Hischier thus far?
“We need a lot of really good players. If I can go and help them play their best hockey, then it’s going to help the Devils be successful. Five of us (veterans) were asked to fly in for Development Camp in July and I took Nico and four other guys out to dinner in the town that I live in here in New Jersey. I got to know him then and… …he doesn’t need my help (grins). He probably doesn’t need anybody’s help. He is outstanding. He’s obviously scoring goals, but he’s playing really good hockey. He’s out there skating really hard in practice; he’s not only doing the fancy things right, he’s doing everything right. He’s going to be a huge part of our team.”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.