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Raising Funds for Campion Rink: Planning for the Next 30 Years

Nov 17, 2022 03:49PM ● By Mark Aiken - Photography By Lars Blackmore

Drawings of what Campion will look like in the future.

Hoisting the Stanley Cup as a member of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins was a highlight of Ben Lovejoy’s life. “It was a lifelong dream, and I worked every day for 32 years to make that dream come true,” says Ben.

Many of those days were spent at Campion Rink on North Main Street between West Lebanon and Hanover. “I had two younger brothers, and we all played hockey,” says Ben, who grew up in nearby Canaan. “All of our games didn’t always happen right in a row.” The result: rather than driving home between games, all three Lovejoy boys spent hours at the rink—as much time off the ice as on, hanging in the lobby, snacking on refreshments, playing with toys, and practicing stickhandling with a tennis ball in pickup games. Campion Rink was a major part of their childhoods.

Campion was built in 1985 in a donated building using many hand-me-down parts from Dartmouth College’s Davis Arena, which had served Hanover for six decades. The rink serves as a home away from home for more than just the Lovejoy family. “We have over 30 user groups,” says Jeff Graham, general manager of the Hanover Improvement Society, which owns and operates Campion.

Constant use by all ages over three decades can get tiring for an old recreational facility, even one with as much character as Campion. The time has come for upgrades to the aging skating rink. A fundraiser is underway in order to ensure it is there for future generations of Upper Valley skaters.

Due for Upgrades

Campion Rink, named for James W. Campion, a civic-minded local businessman, has served Hanover and its surrounding area well. Five high school hockey teams, a youth hockey organization, figure skating clubs, and men’s and women’s recreational hockey groups use the space. Meanwhile, says Jeff, Dick Dodds, rink manager and Hanover High School’s boys’ varsity coach for the past 40 years, leads great daytime programming like his Coffee and Cocoa entry-level skills sessions. The rink operates seven days per week, six months per year.

With such high use, Jeff says the rink is due for some upgrades. “When Campion opened, women’s hockey wasn’t really a thing yet,” says Jeff. Now, there are as many women’s and girls’ teams as boys’. Yet the rink’s original floorplan included four locker rooms with two locker rooms sharing a bathroom and showers—not adequate for a 21st century facility. The renovation includes bigger locker rooms (each equipped with its own bathrooms and showers). Also, the rink has a sand floor surface. “Upgrading to a concrete slab surface and new compressors will improve the ice,” says Jeff.

Improving Hanover

The nonprofit Hanover Improvement Society owns and operates Campion Rink, along with Storrs Pond Recre-ation Area and Nugget Theater—three community assets in Hanover. The Society, founded by the town when the owners of the Nugget turned the theater over to the town, turned 100 years old this year. Its mission is to “identify, evaluate, and support opportunities to quietly maintain and improve the Hanover community, by the funding of ‘good works’ projects.”

Jeff, whose prior career was in a revenue-driven business, enjoys the nonprofit approach. “I went from trying to bring in as much profit as possible to trying to do as much good as possible,” he says. “Now I enjoy this part more.” To that end, the Society is trying to raise money in order to fund the rink renovation. The Society itself has pledged to donate one million dollars. Another donor, Dorothy Byrne, has pledged another million dollars if the Society can raise four million by December 31, 2022. “We still have $350,000 to raise,” says Jeff. Local contractor Estes & Gallup has been awarded the bid for the project. “Once the funding is secured, we plan to begin the first phase of this two-phased project in the spring,” says Jeff, noting that the plan is to schedule the construction so that no ice time gets missed.

Making Memories

Now that his NHL career is over, Ben, who lives in Hanover, still spends time at Campion. “One of my earliest hockey memories is stepping onto the ice at Campion for Travel Mite tryouts as a third grader,” he says. “I was terrified; I didn’t know anyone.” The session started, and the kids started skating and doing hockey drills. “Once the drills started, I remember thinking, ‘Alright, this place is going to work out just fine,’” says Ben.
More than 20 years later, Ben is back as a youth hockey coach, working with his daughters’ teams: the Learn to Play four-year-olds, the eight-and-under Travel Mites, and the 10-and-under Squirts. “The kids are smart,” he says. “You explain stuff, and they get it. Sometimes they fail at first then stay with it until their games change. I can see their passion.”

The community around Hanover and the surrounding areas is just as dogged and passionate, and Campion Rink has been a centerpiece of this community for decades. “It gets use, and it needs care,” says Ben, noting that hockey parents will do anything—and drive any distances—so that their kids can skate. Because of Campion, kids in this community can play with their schoolmates and with kids from the next towns over without driving all over creation. “These sports gave me everything,” says Ben. “The rink has been in our community for 30 years,
and I hope it stays another 30.”

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