National Hockey League Veteran Shares Advice with the Class of 2019
Canaan, New Hampshire—A few minutes past midnight on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday night in May, Cardigan Head of School Christopher Day P’12,’13 heard his phone buzz. When his eyes finally focused on the text message, a bittersweet sense of relief settled in.
“I’ll be at graduation!”
The sender was Ben Lovejoy ’99, Cardigan alumnus, National Hockey League defenseman, Stanley Cup Champion, and 2019 Cardigan Mountain School Commencement Speaker. He and his Dallas Stars teammates had just lost a 4-3 double-overtime heartbreaker to the St. Louis Blues in game 7 of the second round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars’ season was over.
If the Stars had won the game, it meant Mr. Day would be forced to consider alternative speakers. Instead, in the moments after that loss, while his teammates were thinking about the game or making summer vacation plans, Mr. Lovejoy was thinking about being in New Hampshire, at home on The Point with the Cardigan community.
📷 See more photos from Cardigan's 2019 Commencement Exercises
Despite forecasted rain, Cardigan’s 73rd Commencement Day dawned beautiful and blue. At the ceremony, Mr. Day introduced Mr. Lovejoy as an exceptional hockey player—one of the best in the world, in fact. Described as a “defensive” defenseman, Mr. Lovejoy has a plus/minus rating of plus 51, meaning his team has outscored their opponents by 51 goals when he is on the ice—a staggeringly good statistic.
“The Ben Lovejoy who I’m excited for you to hear from is a great hockey player, but he is a way better person,” added Mr. Day. “I know that you boys will listen carefully and learn from his message.”
When Mr. Lovejoy was in the third grade, his father Carl J. Lovejoy P’99,’04,’07 became Cardigan’s director of admissions and the family moved to The Point. Young Ben grew up on campus, skating in the old Turner Arena and idolizing several players of that era. He specifically mentioned Deron Quint ’92, Chris Taliericio ’95, Louis Peppe ’96, Freddy Meyer ’97, and Brady Leisenring ’98 as players that inspired him.
Addressing the graduates, Mr. Lovejoy began by dismissing the notion that Mr. Day had invited him to speak because his Cardigan days were filled with amazing accomplishments. “You couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. He did well in the classroom, but recalled that results were slow to come in other aspects of athletics or student life. In his own words, he ended his ninth-grade hockey season as the “third or fourth best defenseman on the [Cardigan Varsity Hockey] team.”
In that spirit, Mr. Lovejoy dedicated his address to boys that experienced some adversity during their time at School:
"To those of you who experienced some disappointment during your time at Cardigan – those who didn’t make a varsity team, didn’t become a floor leader, didn’t get the lead in a play, weren’t accepted into their first-choice school, and won’t be posing for photos after graduation today with an armful of silverware - pay particular attention to my story. This commencement address is dedicated to you."
Mr. Lovejoy then shared his preparation process for his remarks. He watched several YouTube videos of popular Commencement addresses, including a 2003 Harvard address delivered by comedian Will Ferrell, a 2014 Dartmouth address by television producer Shonda Rhimes, and Cardigan’s 2017 address from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. P’17. Remarking that all commencement addresses seek to share some form of advice, he looked at the Class of 2019 and offered his:
"My advice? GO TO WORK. You can’t fake hard work. Since my days at Cardigan, my whole life has been about trying to outwork the guy next to me and the guy across from me…There’s very little magic in my story. I go to work – every, single, day. There are no days off."
For the next several minutes, Mr. Lovejoy traced his journey through professional hockey, from earning a “Master’s Degree in hockey” with the minor-league Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins to winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. In describing the challenges, injuries, and trades along the way, Mr. Lovejoy related it all back to the central theme: Just keep going to work. Every day. He concluded simply, by challenging the Class of 2019 to do just that, in such a way that one of them might someday return to Cardigan as Commencement Speaker:
"My question for you 87 gentlemen…How many of you will be willing to put in the work necessary, so that in twenty years, Chris Day will call you to invite you to return to Canaan to address the Class of 2039?"