Ben Lovejoy

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Ben Lovejoy announces retirement after 11 NHL seasons

Ben Lovejoy has announced his retirement after an 11-season, 554-game NHL career.

Appearing as a guest analyst on NHL Network Wednesday night, the 35-year-old Lovejoy was happy to be moving on to the next chapter of his life.

“I’m very done. I’m very proud of my career, very honored to have played for so long. It couldn’t have gone any better. It was a childhood dream come true. But it was hard,” Lovejoy said. “I wasn’t good enough to just lace up the skates and go play. I had to make it a lifestyle, and I feel like about a million-pound weight is off my shoulders right now. I’m really, really excited to be done.”

Undrafted out of Dartmouth College, Lovejoy started his professional career in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals and then the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His play earned him a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007 and his NHL career was under way.

Lovejoy didn’t play in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but was a part of the Penguins’ “Black Aces” as the franchise won its third championship. Seven years later, however, he played all 24 postseason games as they won the first of back-to-back titles in 2016. He signed with the New Jersey Devils that offseason and was there until last February when he was dealt to the Dallas Stars.

Lovejoy’s lasting impact on the game came in Dec. 2017 when he became the first active NHL player to pledge to to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation to support Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and concussion research. Since then, former men’s and women’s players Shawn McEachern, Angela Ruggiero, Hayley Wickenheiser, A. J. Mleczko, Bob Sweeney and Ted Drury have joined Lovejoy  in pledging to donate their brains to the CLF.

“I hope I live until I’m 90-plus years old and concussion issues and CTE are cured long before my brain is looked at by the doctors,” Lovejoy said. “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.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Stars acquire defenseman Lovejoy in trade with Devils

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DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Stars acquired veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

The Stars sent defenseman Connor Carrick and a 2019 third-round draft pick to the Devils in the deal reached two days before the NHL’s trade deadline.

Lovejoy is an 11-year veteran and defensive specialist who won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. He was second on the Devils with 77 blocked shots while playing a key penalty-killing role. He has two goals and seven points in 51 games this season and 20 goals and 99 points in 524 career games.

General manager Jim Nill called Lovejoy ”an experienced, battle-tested player who has a track record of performing in meaningful late-season games.”

With Marc Methot out after season-ending knee surgery last month and Stephen Johns (neck/head) having not played this season, Lovejoy is a boost to the Dallas defense. The Stars reacquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from Pittsburgh in a trade last month.

The trade comes with Dallas seeking to keep pace in the congested Western Conference playoff race in which five points separate the seventh-place Stars and 12th-place Vancouver.

Dallas was 2-4-1 in its past seven games going into Saturday’s home game against Carolina. The Stars were coming off a 5-2 win Thursday over St. Louis that snapped a franchise-record 11-game winning streak by the Blues.

New Jersey was 14th in the 16-team Eastern Conference.

The 24-year-old Carrick had a goal and four points in 14 games with the Stars this season.

Lovejoy was a healthy scratch when the Devils played Thursday against Ottawa. Lovejoy had a plus-one rating in his 51 games, one of only two New Jersey’s regulars in the positive.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

‘I want to do anything I can to help’: Lovejoy to donate brain for CTE research

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As a whole, people are more informed about concussions, brain trauma and CTE today than they’ve ever been before. One current NHLer is hoping to take it a step further at some point in the distant future.

In an interview with TSN, New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy announced that he’ll be donating his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston. The goal is to help researchers find out more about CTE and concussions down the line. Lovejoy is the first activate NHLer to commit to this kind of cause.

Although he’s never been diagnosed with a concussion, the 33-year-old believes this gesture can help unlock some the mysteries surrounding head injuries.

“Hockey has been so good to me,” Lovejoy told TSN.ca. “It’s helped me make a ton of friends, travel the country and world, and given me an amazing job that has paid me really well. My entire life has revolved exclusively around hockey and I want to give my brain to help make this game safer.

“I’m spoiled to have done this for so long. I’ve had teammates who are superstars and others who are minor-league role players who have struggled, missed time, and ended careers because of concussions. I want to do anything I can to help.”

Even though he hasn’t had a documented concussion, he’s still played a physical brand of hockey for a long time.  Lovejoy has suited up in 432 and 218 NHL and AHL games in his career.

Earlier this year, former NHLers Shawn McEachern, Bob Sweeney, Ted Drury and Craig Adams also pledged to donate their brains to concussion/CTE research.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question: Is the defense good enough?

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For a team not really known for its defense, the Penguins sure have seen defensemen fly off the shelves.

Last summer, teams spent $76.45 million to lure away Deryk Engelland (Calgary), Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik (Washington).

This summer, more of the same with the Sharks signing Paul Martin and the Kings inking Christian Ehrhoff.

The issue here is obvious — if Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t that great to begin with and then lost all these guys, how good will it be heading into 2015-16?

“I’m comfortable with (our defense) going into the season,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said earlier this summer, per USA Today. “But it is certainly the area we will watch the closest.”

Rutherford isn’t the only one that’ll be watching.

Eyes across the league will be glued to Pittsburgh following Rutherford’s bold renovation project. Nearly all of his moves this summer were designed to improve his forward group — adding the likes of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr and KHLer Sergei Plotnikov — essentially banking on the idea that, ready or not, his collection of young defensemen will carry the load.

And it really is a young group.

Only Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy have appeared in over 200 NHL games; even a “veteran” presence like 26-year-old Ian Cole is a bit of a wildcard, given he was buried on a deep Blues blueline before being acquired last season (prior to ’14-15, Cole’s career high in games played was 46).

As such, kids are going to take on some pretty hefty roles.

Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, both 21, figure to get a lion’s share of the now-available minutes, while the likes of Adam Clendening (22), Brian Dumoulin (23) and Tim Erixon (24) will be fighting for depth spots — which, in Pittsburgh, are pretty important spots.

This is a defensive unit, remember, that was ravaged by injury a year ago (recall when the Pens only dressed five d-men against San Jose?) Things got so bad that, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Taylor Chorney was in the lineup.

Though the club has since hired two new staffers in an effort to “minimize injuries,” losing blueliners to injury always remains a concern.

But there is a wrinkle.

Rutherford, who took heat last year for rolling the dice on a thin blueline while stockpiling offense, says that his abundance of forwards may actually help out should he to add a defenseman.

“Hopefully the younger guys can fall into place and do a consistent job,” he explained. “If not, part of having more depth up front, is that it can help us in the long run because if we have to go get a defenseman we have those extra pieces.”

Translation: Rutherford knows the group might need help.

“I’m fully aware,” he said, “that at some point in time we may have to address that position.”

Looking to make the leap: Derrick Pouliot

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Is this the year Derrick Pouliot transitions from promising prospect to full-time pro?

He seems to think so.

“I think I’m capable of being a reliable defender in this league. I think I can produce even more offensively, too,” Pouliot said earlier this summer, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s really about taking a two-way role, not giving up anything and creating some chances for us.

“I’ll come into camp in shape and be able to handle some more minutes.”

Last season, Pouliot looked primed to make the leap. He made his NHL debut in December and eventually replaced an injured Olli Maatta on Pittsburgh’s blueline, impressing onlookers through 34 games until an injury of his own prematurely ended the campaign.

While it was a good showing from a kid that only turned 21 in January — Pouliot racked up seven points while averaging 17:33 TOI — the former WHL Portland standout only provided a glimpse of what he could do.

Now, the Pens want a much bigger look.

They also need it.

Pittsburgh’s defense took a hit this offseason and, as a result, Pouliot’s role is bound to increase. Blueline minutes are there for the taking: Paul Martin, who averaged nearly 23 per game last season, is now in San Jose while Christian Ehrhoff, who averaged nearly 22, is in L.A.

Rob Scuderi turns 37 in December and seems primed for a (further) diminished role, and it remains to be seen if the Ben Lovejoy-for-Simon Despres trade will ever work out in the Pens’ favor.

So, enter Pouliot.

The eighth overall pick in 2012, he’s expected to shoulder a significant load this year, despite it being (essentially) his first full NHL campaign. And this isn’t any ordinary team he’s looking to leap into; Pittsburgh made major splashes throughout the summer, none bigger than the Phil Kessel acquisition, and is a legit Eastern Conference contender.

In short, the pressure’s on for Pouliot.

“I definitely know the expectations, that’s for sure,” he told NHL.com. “I know I have to be ready when the season comes around, what I have to do to be ready. It’s a little different in that aspect, that’s for sure.

“I’m pretty anxious. I feel like I can take on a bit of a bigger role.”