News about the passing of little Ben Stelter from brain cancer at age six was a couple of hours old on social media by the time I saw it Wednesday not long after I finished doing a segment on the Rod Pedersen Show from Rogers Place. What a stunning juxtaposition.
We’d just talked about the World Junior Championship being plagued by bad attendance. We’d touched on off-season moves by the Edmonton Oilers, the struggles of the Edmonton Elk and all that is wrong with Hockey Canada, and hockey in general, in the wake of the latest scandal over another sexual assault.
Then came the news about Ben, taken by glioblastoma after giving us a glimpse into his life and his love of the Oilers as they made their way into the playoffs. We watched as the Oilers took Ben in as a good luck charm and as one of their own. And, of course, there was, “Play La Bamba, baby!” In that precious time, this beautiful, brave little boy brought out the best in us.
With condolences pouring in from around the hockey world, that’s how I’ll remember Ben and how lucky we are to have had him for the brief time that we did. At a time when there is so much unrest and upheaval in the world, it was wonderful to watch players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, all the Oilers for that matter, and this city embrace Ben.
WHAT THEY SAID
Ben, the legend. 💙🧡 pic.twitter.com/xvL1c6PcbC
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) August 11, 2022
“Honestly, this is a very tough day for the entire Oilers family, all the fans but more importantly and most importantly the family,” McDavid said this morning. “Obviously, Ben meant so much to myself, to my teammates and we had a relationship that kind of developed over the course of a year or so I certainly won’t forget.
“He was an amazing little guy who lit up every single room he was in. He certainly lit up our room every time he walked in there. I don’t know what else to say.”
“He was always on the glass,” Hyman said. “I think a lot of players loved seeing him. It just energized you before a game to see him. This kid has gone through so much (and) he’s just enjoying and loving the Oilers and loving winning. It makes you want to keep going and keep winning – if you can kind of distract him from that he’s going through.
“I think a lot of guys took a lot of pride in that. Just winning for Ben and making his life easier. I know that his passion was the Oilers, so it was always great to see him on the glass or give him a little fist bump before we walked out.”
It was one day after the Oilers were swept by Colorado that I last communicated with Mike Stelter in a note expressing thanks for sharing Ben — and the unforgettable moments he made with the Oilers — with us. Some people in town are already thinking out loud about what can be done to honor Ben’s memory, to make sure he’s remembered.
Their hearts are in the right place, and it would be wonderful to see something done for the Stelter family – his dad, mom and two sisters. For me, Ben is already unforgettable. Bless the Stelter family. Bless you, little one.