Oilers: Saying Goodbye To Ben

Ben Stelter

Coming off the recent funeral for the Oilers super fan Ben Stelter on a Friday morning last week, it felt unthinkable jumping into a weekend after having just buried a six year old. There are things in life we can never explain or fathom. You can’t hear about cancer impacting the health of someone who hasn’t even been around an entire decade yet and not feel gutted. I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer and ALS respectively, and an uncle to a sudden heart attack. Add to that, having a high school friend lost in a car accident. Tragedies happen everyday, but to see a little one go… Who has an answer for that?

While we hockey fans get amped with emotions and chirp our rivals playfully, and as I do my job to write about the sport, we saw not just the Edmonton Oilers, but every other team and fan league wide being united and pouring their hearts out for the Stelter family during an exceedingly heartbreaking time. I still remember in Round 1 against L.A. when Ben met and got a picture taken with the Kings mascot, Bailey the Lion. We’ve been brought back to reality by remembering that there are bigger things in life than sports.

From the perspective of an Oilers fan who lives in Toronto and will have to stay up past midnight throughout 95% of the season to watch games, I won’t be as connected with the Oilers faithful as most would be. Social media helps a little, though it is just a screen. But Ben brought everyone together, close or far. The 2021-2022 NHL season was a peculiar ride for the Oil. Long winning streaks, long losing streaks, a coaching change, a redemption story from a midseason signing, and a playoff run that saw Edmonton make their first Conference Final appearance since being one game away from becoming the Champs in 2006. On top of all that, however, it’s Ben who will have been the biggest highlight. When listening to Connor McDavid, Zach Hyman, and Jay Woodcroft speak to the media about Ben after learning about his passing, and seeing Ben fist bump the players before they stepped onto the ice during the playoffs, of course they play to win for every fan, every year. But for him especially, seeing the team go as far as they did made it extra special. They wanted to win most of all for him. He was their motivation. Seeing McDavid at the funeral wearing a signed Ben jersey with a “B” where his “C” would be, you knew their bond was deep. I will forever view March 24th, 2022, as an Oilers fan’s anniversary. The night that he took the pre-game skate, joined Hyman in the post-game interview and had his team picture in the locker room after being named Player Of The Game. That was the day we all started to know and fall in love with Ben.

That union and togetherness were missing for two long years during a global pandemic. And as we live in a time right now where every topic of discussion feels polarizing, this tiny lad made us all forget about whatever gripes we were holding onto in our daily lives. Hearing the Pastor at the funeral talk about attending an Oilers game with the Stelters’ reminded me of a pastor my own family used to have. An NFL fan with love for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. He was also an Oilers fan when he was a kid, so that’s where he might’ve gotten to me. As Oilers fans, it comes with tradition to develop a strong disliking for the Calgary Flames. But when the Conference Semi-Final was happening, you’ve got to respect Matthew Tkachuk for the supportive video he sent Ben, even jokingly forgiving the video where Ben shoots the nerf gun at a picture of him. That goes back to the entire hockey community remembering life outside of hockey. No matter who we cheer for, everyone rooted for the same team when it came to the Stelter family.

Ben instantly became the new Joey Moss, now joining Joey and Colby Cave as Oilers treasures and icons from up in the clouds. After all… Once An Oiler, Always An Oiler. It was emotional to hear Joey’s favourite song after an Oilers win at Rogers Place, but now it’ll also have a second meaning. And how heartwarming it was to listen to it after a Team Canada win at Rogers Place in this year’s World Juniors’ Tournament. In 2023, we hope the Alberta capital can break Canada’s 30 year Stanley Cup drought. And every Oilers fan, wherever they’re watching, can chant… PLAY LA BAMBA BABY!

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

The boys are back after a long break but have plenty to talk about as the playoffs are in full swing. We go series by series, looking at how teams have fared so far and who will come out on top. Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Stanley Cup Aspirations
  2. The Final Countdown
  3. Here Come the Playoffs
  4. Home Stretch
  5. Kevy Cooks

Stephen Vani

Oilers fan in Toronto. Staying up past my bedtime for Western games since the mid 2000s.

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