It isn’t every day that a defensive play in a game with nine combined goals is considered the play of the game, but you could make an argument for the play Ben Lovejoy made two nights ago against the Sharks at Honda Center. With the Ducks clinging to a one-goal lead, Jonas Hiller went behind the net to chase a dumped puck, but it took a funny bounce off the glass and ended up on Joe Thornton’s stick in front. Thornton shot it immediately toward the abandoned net, only to be thwarted by Lovejoy’s diving save with the stick. Here’s a somewhat shaky look at it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHmSHmZMs-Q
Less than a minute later, Matt Beleskey scored to give the Ducks a two-goal lead and they never looked back in eventually downing the Sharks 5-2 for a key payback win.
But that play wasn’t even close to being the highlight of Lovejoy’s New Year’s Eve. That morning, his wife Avery gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Lila. The man who has for a long time been called "The Reverend" can now be called Father.
The Ducks had yesterday off, but after practice today at Honda Center, Lovejoy told the story:
How are you feeling after these last couple of days?
Personally, I’m doing very well. We took her home yesterday at 3:00. She slept and ate, on and off. She and Avery went to bed at about 9, and they were up on and off throughout the night. Eventually Avery took her and slept in the other room with her. They were both sound asleep when I got up at 7:30, and I left at 8:30. I’m very excited to get back there and hang out.
So what led up to the birth on Tuesday morning?
The day before, on the 30th, I was getting ready to leave for practice and Avery said, “Nope. We’re going to the hospital.” So we were in the hospital from about 9 to 2 that day. They told us to leave for a few hours, walk around and come back when contractions were a little closer. They never got closer, so at 10:30 at night, I told her, “We’re playing the Sharks tomorrow. I’m going to bed. Wake me up when you need to go to the hospital.” So 1:30 rolled around and she said, “We’re going.” I broke a few speed limits on our way to the hospital in Orange. We got there about 1:45, and the nurses were very impressed with how long we waited. They said we were going to have the baby quite quick, which in my mind meant like 45 minutes [laughs]. We were there from 1:45 to 10:24 in the morning, which is when she gave birth. So evidently I was very naïve, since I thought it would be a lot quicker than that.
Lila came out, the doctors checked her all out, I was there another hour and they were very healthy and everything. I told Avery I was playing the Sharks tonight and I had to go eat and get to the rink.
Was there any thought of not playing the game?
Not in my mind. I’m sure Avery thought differently [laughs]. I had gotten texts at 8:30 that morning from Bruce wondering how things were going. I was very impressed with how supportive everyone was, throughout the whole team. Nobody expected me here for pregame skate or the game. They were like, Take care of things with your family. But I think they, like me, were extremely excited that it happened well before the game and that I was able to get here.
And that night, you may have had the play of the game with a great defensive play.
That was a very bad bounce off the glass. Jonas had carried us early and …
(Hiller is sitting two locker stalls away listening in…)
This guy right here, that we’re sitting next to and I’m pumping his tires right now. He’s bailed me out so many times, but in this case, he went back for a puck that was on the boards and it should not have exploded. But it bounced up and hit the glass, hit a stanchion and came out in front of the net. I went full extension and was able to get a piece of it.
After the game, when the other players were going to various New Year’s Eve celebrations, you headed to the hospital.
Yeah, I did very little partying. It was a very satisfying night. I was exhausted during the game. I had a lot of adrenaline, but I had to play a smart game. I did not have a lot of jump in my legs. I took 38-second shifts, which I looked at after the game. And afterward, I drove to the hospital, and it was just a very satisfied feeling. I was very happy, my wife was very happy and … I couldn’t tell what my daughter was thinking [laughs]. It was just an all-around amazing day.
Did she watch the game from the hospital?
No, she didn’t. They didn’t get it in the hospital, apparently. But actually, the nurse who spent the whole day with Avery yesterday was at the game. That was pretty cool. She was very excited, and she was tremendous.
Did you make it to midnight?
I did. I hung out till after midnight at the hospital, and then I went home to sleep. Avery got some sleep and Lila went to the nursery for awhile. Yesterday we got some tests done and signed some papers, and when the nurses were ready, they allowed us to come home.
So, are you ready for all this fatherhood stuff?
I am. I am a very prepared guy in everything I do. I waited until I was almost 30 on purpose. I was not ready for this as a 23- or 24-year-old. I had some growing up to do. I keep getting texts and calls from my dad, who I think is trying to make me nervous, because he’s telling me about how nervous he was. I’m really quite confident that we’re gonna do a good job, and I’m very excited to balance Avery, Lila and ice hockey.
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