Remembering Ben Stelter: The story behind the young superfan's friendship with Connor McDavid and the Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers shared memories of superfan Ben Stelter on Thursday.
Connor McDavid, Zach Hyman and head coach Jay Woodcroft held a virtual press conference to speak about the six-year-old.
“He was an amazing little guy who lit up every single room he was in, certainly lit up our room every time he walked in there,” McDavid said.
“Obviously a terrible day and we’re thinking about the entire Stelter family.”
News of Ben’s death came Wednesday after the boy’s long battle with brain cancer.
“As a father myself, I get to see the impact that professional athletes have on children, but what I found really interesting about our time with Ben was the impact a child had on a team and an organization and a city,” Woodcroft said. “I’m thankful to have gotten to know him.”
Ben became a household name after he was featured as a skater before a home game in March. He got to stand next to McDavid, his favourite player, and then joined Hyman for a press conference after the game.
McDavid noted that was his favourite memory of the young fan.
“Just being able to see his face and be close to him. Not a lot of people get to experience what the ice feels like and what it sounds like, but it was pretty loud in there.”
“Just to experience that with him was really special for me and something that I’ll definitely always remember.”
Hyman has fond memories of the evening as well.
“Some players would be nervous in front of a room of media. This guy was excited, huge smile on his face, and just kind of wanted to talk about the game and talk about the win,” Hyman said.
“One of my favourite memories from that presser was somebody asked him who his favourite player was, and he looks at me, and he goes, ‘Connor,’ so he really did have that connection with Connor, and really did love him.”
The team donated proceeds from 50/50 ticket sales in the first round of the playoffs to the Kids With Cancer Society in Ben’s honour.
McDavid, Hyman, and Woodcroft all spoke of how Ben won’t soon be forgotten.
“I know his spirit’s going to live on for sure. You heard two of our leaders talk about the impact he had in our dressing room with just his approach,” said Woodcroft. “I know his spirit is going to live on with our team for sure."
WHEN BEN MET CONNOR
While fans met Ben in March, the story of his friendship with McDavid goes back several months before that.
Ashif Mawji introduced the pair in 2021.
Mawji first met the family during the height of COVID-19 when his car club did a driveby birthday for Ben.
“My car has Connor McDavid on one side, like a big image of him, and Leon on the other side, and Ben’s a huge Oilers fan, so when he saw my car, he really wanted to get a picture. So his dad came out and stopped me and said, ‘Do you mind if we take a picture?’ I said, ‘Of course’, so that was the very first time,” he told CTV News Edmonton.
“A few months later his dad reached out to me on social media and said, ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but Ben’s hero is Connor, he would love to meet him, I don’t know if you can do anything.’ I happen to know Connor, so I reached out to him, and Connor being Connor said, ‘Yeah of course, let’s make it happen,’ and so that’s how they first met.”
Ben and his family visited Mawji’s family in December 2021 under the premise of meeting his puppy.
“All of a sudden there’s a knock on the door, and Connor knocks, and I said, ‘I wonder who that could be’ and when we opened the door, I wish I had recorded that,” he said. “Ben’s face just lit up. I’ve never seen a kid’s face light up like that. And he’s like, ‘It’s Connor!’ and he just yelled.”
Mawji says McDavid spent an hour with Ben that day, answering all his questions, and developing a bond.
“He said, ‘Look Ashif, whatever they need, let‘s get it done,’ and that’s kind of how it started.”
He says since then, his own family has become close with the Stelter family.
“They are part of our family. They’ve been to our house a number of times, we’ve had them at the Oilers games a number of times, etcetera, we’re very, very close with them. They’re a very kind family.”
Mawji says he’s already been in touch with McDavid about honouring Ben.
“We’re gonna come up with something working with the Oilers and the whole group, work out something that will be a lasting legacy,” he said. “There’s a ton of ideas out there, a lot of fans have been chiming in, and I know that we’ll work with the family and do something very meaningful for them.”
And even before Ben's death, Mawji had already found a way to honour his young friend. Ben's face has been added to his Oilers car, where he will live forever with his idols.
"When you say the word Ben, you think of him and you think of this brave, courageous warrior that never gave up. Ever. And he always brought hope and inspiration. So that will be his lasting legacy."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
As the holiday season approaches, food banks across Canada are desperate for donations due to an increasing amount of clients. As inflation hits all Canadians, those who feel the impact most are the vulnerable communities with the highest food insecurity rates.
In the first footage of its kind, scientists captured the moment a pod of orcas hunted great white sharks in South Africa.
“No democrats!” multiple women say when asked what they're looking for in an advertisement for the Right Stuff, a dating app for Conservatives backed by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, which launched in the U.S. last week.
TREND LINE | Nanos projections show Poilievre's Conservatives winning more seats than Trudeau's Liberals
If an election were to be held today, the Conservative Party would win more seats than the Liberals, potentially enabling Pierre Poilievre to become Prime Minister, the latest seat projections from Nanos Research show.
Hockey Quebec says it has lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will not transfer funds to the national organization. The provincial federation confirmed that its board of directors adopted a motion Tuesday night saying it does not believe Hockey Canada's current structure can change hockey culture.
On the heels of another tense hearing with Hockey Canada's past and current board chairs defending the organization, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MPs were unequivocal on Wednesday in their condemnation of Hockey Canada's resistance to making changes that they say are necessary.
Starting Thursday, businesses in Canada will soon be able to pass credit card fees on to their customers, thanks to a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement involving Visa and Mastercard.
François Legault may have changed his separatist strategy but he hasn’t changed his stripes, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair says in an exclusive column on CTVNews.ca.
It's been six months since a Canadian airline crew was detained in the Dominican Republic after finding drugs on board and reporting them to the authorities.
Premier Jason Kenney, speaking a day ahead of the UCP leadership vote, said he is uncertain of his political future, but is proud of what he's done for Alberta.
Police have put a name to a man believed to be behind a pair of arsons in the northwest Calgary community of Varsity.
Alberta Parks is warning visitors to Kananaskis country against relying solely on AllTrails, a crowd-sourced app, that the organization says has placed hikers in peril.
The chief forensic pathologist for the Saskatchewan coroners service took to the stand in Saskatoon on Wednesday for the trial of Ranbir Dhull.
Following his $1 million lotto win, Rollins Head was in such a state of disbelief he checked his ticket at two different stores.
With rising inflation across the country programs that provide free food in Saskatoon are contending with unprecedented need.
Saskatchewan residents are paying more to attend live concerts, theatre performances and art gallery exhibitions following an expansion of the provincial sales tax.
A Regina woman who was convicted in 2019 for embezzling millions of dollars has been granted her appeal and a new trial has been ordered.
McKell Wascana Conservation Park is officially the Regina Wetland Centre of Excellence serving as an outdoor classroom for science students at Dr. Martin LeBoldus Catholic High School.
More than 16,000 customers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are still without electricity 12 days after post-tropical storm Fiona hit the Maritimes on Sept. 23. The ongoing outages and restoration efforts have prompted the Nova Scotia government to declare a state of emergency in several counties in northern Nova Scotia.
Post-tropical storm Fiona changed the coastline of Prince Edward Island forever, however nowhere is more obvious than the P.E.I. National Park on the island’s north shore.
After struggling financially for months, the owners of a Fall River childcare centre says the end is near: the doors will close next month.
A man has died in hospital after a stabbing in Toronto’s Allan Gardens park Tuesday evening.
Businesses in Ontario will be allowed to pass on credit card fees to customers starting on Thursday. There are a few things businesses and consumers need to know.
A Walmart and high school in Caledon, Ont. were evacuated Wednesday after police said they received information about a possible bomb threat.
Hockey Quebec says it has lost confidence in Hockey Canada and will no longer transfer funds to the national organization.
Organizers of the Montreal Pride need to pay for security, communicate better, and hire more experienced staff to avoid another repeat of the devastating cancellation of the parade next year, according to a post-mortem report into the August 2022 fiasco.
The new rule allowing businesses in Canada to pass credit card fees onto customers will not apply in Quebec.
Ottawa police are reporting a sharp rise in the number of vehicles stolen in Ottawa this year, with newer model Honda CRV's topping the list of targets for thieves.
Ottawa city councillors may soon need to disclose personal relationships with city staff to the city’s integrity commissioner.
A Cornwall developer says a dispute with the city has stopped construction on numerous projects in the downtown core, including a plan to build 200 affordable housing units by 2026.
The family of a man with a service dog who was forcibly removed from a Kitchener, Ont. restaurant last fall, is speaking out after assault charges against the two men involved were withdrawn.
The process to remove a truck that crashed into a building in Atwood a month ago started on Wednesday, as portions of the building were torn down to help dislodge the truck.
The Region of Waterloo is reminding business owners to start winterizing their property while avoiding over-salting surfaces.
Two recent incidents of adults trying to lure children have North Bay and area parents and caregivers on edge.
Candidates vying to be Sault Ste. Marie’s new mayor say a few issues appear to be top of mind for voters: homelessness, drug addiction and mental health.
Another major curling event is taking place in North Bay this week. The Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling is on until Sunday, featuring some of Canada's best curlers competing and staying in North Bay.
More than one-third of Winnipeggers believe people who have occupied public spaces in the city should be allowed to stay there briefly, according to a recent poll.
The Winnipeg Police Service has charged five more people after an encampment was cleared at the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday.
A legal battle hangs over the race for mayor in the R.M. of St. Andrews north of Winnipeg, a dispute that on Wednesday reached the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
Upwards of 50 campers and trailers were parked in Vancouver's Spanish Banks Beach Park overnight.
Lewd gestures, 'malicious lies' and a bag of dog feces in a car among allegations in B.C. neighbours' dispute
A dispute among neighbours that devolved into daily drive-by insults and accusations that a bag of dog feces was deliberately left in one person's car was adjudicated by B.C.'s small claims tribunal this week.
North Vancouver RCMP have issued a public warning after receiving an increase in reports of "sexual extortions" involving social media.
B.C. Premier John Horgan says the New Democrat government's crime-fighting agenda involves more than increasing arrests of alleged violent offenders. Horgan says he agrees with Attorney General Murray Rankin who told the legislature on Tuesday that a focus on more arrests of prolific offenders to curb crime would be “futile.”
The B.C. Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS) has confirmed that two African servals are on the loose in the Qualicum Beach area of Vancouver Island. The exotic cats have killed a domestic cat, according to the BC SPCA.
The B.C. government says that 54 doctors have signed contracts with the province to provide full-time family doctor service after the Ministry of Health announced a signing bonus and other incentives earlier this summer. On June 21, the province announced it would be offering a $25,000 signing bonus as well as medical training debt forgiveness up to $130,000 to new family doctors who agreed to work in B.C. for five years.