Oilers mourn six-year-old fan who lost battle with brain cancer
Like so many Canadian kids, Ben Stelter loved hockey and idolized his favourite players.
What Ben may not have fully realized in life is that those players actually looked up to him.
Back in March, when he was five years old, Ben was introduced at an Oilers game. He was invited to skate with the team before puck drop, and lined up next to them for the national anthem. The professional athletes towered over the tiny skater, even though his opponent was far bigger and scarier than theirs was.
Ben was fighting a form of brain cancer that forced multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
On Wednesday, his father Mike Stelter announced on Twitter that Ben’s battle had ended. He was just six years old.
“Obviously this is a very tough day for the entire Oilers family,” captain Connor McDavid said in a rare summertime virtual press conference that had nothing to do with hockey. “Honestly, Ben meant so much to myself, to my teammates.”
If the tumour caused him any discomfort during the Edmonton Oilers’ deep playoff run this past spring, you couldn’t see it in Ben’s face. His smile, his giggle, and his calls to “play La Bamba, baby” gave the impression of a healthy, young hockey fan.
“I was greatly impressed with the courage of a young man who defined what a bright light was,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “Not only did he walk into our dressing room and our arena and light up our team, but I thought he lit up our fan base.”
Ben’s outlook was so positive and so courageous, he became something of a champion for his beloved Oilers. He was invited to team practices and dressing room chats. His words of encouragement and pre-game fist pumps for each player helped drive the team to a 10-game win streak at home. The Oilers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in 16 years.
“What he went through, you wouldn’t know it by meeting him,” said Oilers forward Zach Hyman. “He’s going to be greatly missed and he’s such an inspiration to all of us. What he went through really puts everything into perspective.”