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
Canadians in Russia who hold dual citizenship should leave the country immediately or risk being conscripted for mandatory military service, the Government of Canada is warning.
Canada is headed for a 'severe' and 'almost inevitable' recession in early 2023, according to the head of economics at Macquarie Group, which states Canada will face an approximately three per cent contraction in gross domestic product and a five per cent rise in its unemployment rate during the predicted recession.
Ceremonies, marches and other gatherings are taking place across the country Friday as communities mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The federal statutory holiday was established last year to remember children who died while being forced to attend residential schools, as well as those who survived, and the families and communities still affected by lasting trauma.
A revived Hurricane Ian pounded coastal South Carolina on Friday, ripping apart piers and flooding streets after the ferocious storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands in their homes and leaving at least 17 people dead.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties Friday to illegally annex more occupied Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of his war. Ukraine's president countered with a surprise application to join the NATO military alliance.
As Russia's war in Ukraine enters a flammable, even more dangerous phase, analysis from the Associated Press on CTVNews.ca looks at whether a wider war is looming with devastating results for the world, perhaps not seen since 1939-1945.
Russia vetoed a UN resolution Friday that would have condemned its referendums in four Ukrainian regions as illegal, declared them invalid and urged all countries not to recognize any annexation of the territory claimed by Moscow.
Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization by up to 30 per cent for fully vaccinated patients, according to a new study.
For the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, CTVNews.ca spoke to several Indigenous leaders about feelings around the day more than a year since the suspected gravesites made world news, and in the weeks following Queen Elizabeth II death that took over the news cycle during a month when decolonization is meant to be top of mind.
Indigenous community members and their allies gathered in Morley, Alta., on Friday to recognize the intergenerational traumas of Canada’s residential school system.
The nerves were high for Tsuaki Marule as she sang O Canada in front of thousands of fans at the Toronto Blue Jays game on Friday.
Calgarians gathered to remember, educate and listen on Friday for the country's second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Shirley Isbister had trouble believing her eyes Friday as she stood at the bottom of Victoria Park in Saskatoon watching more than 1,000 people dressed in orange shirts pour in from the street above for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
More than four thousand people attended the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Pow Wow and Concert at SaskTel Centre on Friday.
Newly appointed president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Alika Lafontaine shares what the organization plans to do in helping save the country’s collapsing health-care system.
Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty hosted an event for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at the Residential School Memorial on the grounds of Government House in Regina.
Downtown Regina was host to a memorial walk Friday morning, acting as one part of the many gatherings for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in the Queen City.
'I still struggle': Residential school survivors share stories during National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
People in Regina gathered at the Eagle Heart Centre on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For the community it's a time to acknowledge.
Employees who have suffered wage losses due to the destruction of post-tropical storm Fiona on Prince Edward Island are set to benefit from a new program by the provincial government.
‘The truth hurts but it also heals’: Halifax recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Drums and singing could be heard at the Grand Parade in Halifax as many gathered in orange to honour residential school survivors and those who never returned home.
Major clean-up efforts continue in Cape Breton on Friday as many on the island remain in the dark.
Toronto's election is less than a month away. Here's what some mayoral candidates are pledging ahead of upcoming debate
Toronto’s municipal election is less than a month away, but there seems to be a lack of campaign buzz across the city.
Peel Regional Police say one person had been taken into custody early Saturday morning, ending an hours-long standoff at a medical facility in Mississauga.
Dolores (McLeod) Naponse, hopes that her presence at a Toronto Blue Jays game will spark important conversation.
The Parti Québécois (PQ) has suspended a candidate because of his comments about Islam and women who wear a religious veil.
A 16-year-old boy was rushed to hospital after being stabbed in the parking lot of a public pool in Montreal's Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough.
'We will come together': Montrealers, Indigenous advocates march for second National Truth and Reconciliation Day
A march through Montreal's downtown core was among the events, ceremonies, and speeches marking the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Ottawa police promise 'zero tolerance' approach to Panda Game festivities
Ottawa police say there will be a "significant and sustained" police presence in Sandy Hill and Old Ottawa South today, keeping an eye on Panda Game festivities.
Highway 417 is closed between Metcalfe Street and Carling/Kirkwood avenues until 6 a.m. on Tuesday for the replacement of the Rochester Street bridge.
An Every Child Matters banner covered the sign on the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway on Friday, as the federal government was urged to rename the road in Ottawa's west end.
Kitchener’s first Artist-in-Residence plans to share stories of underrepresented voices through portraits
The City of Kitchener announced, earlier this month, that Bangishimo Johnston would be the 2022 Artist-in-Residence.
A growing garden in Breslau, aimed at nurturing relationships and reconciliation, is now ready for harvest.
Songs of determination and steps of solidarity filled the streets of downtown Kitchener Friday morning, marking the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Communities across northern Ontario are marking National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – also known as Orange Shirt Day – with ceremonies and events recognizing the impact of the Canadian Indian residential school system.
It was an emotional day on Nipissing First Nation as a survivor shared her deeply personal experience attending a northern Ontario residential school on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Ontario's ninth Indigenous university officially opened in Sault Ste. Marie across from a former residential school on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Former students of Assiniboia Residential School were honoured Friday at the unveiling of a commemorative monument and gathering place on Academy Road.
A memorial sculpture honouring those lost and affected by the residential school system is giving Winnipeggers a new gathering place for truth and reconciliation.
Emergency crews were on the scene of a multi-vehicle collision at the corner of Portage Avenue and the Perimeter Highway Friday.
'It's still a lot of hurting': Survivors of former North Vancouver residential school return to the site
Survivors of a former North Vancouver residential school were among hundreds who gathered at the site for a pilgrimage Friday.
The Musqueam Indian Band has gifted a replacement name for Trutch Street to the City of Vancouver, more than a decade after members first called for a change.
The City of White Rock marked the second ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday by raising the flag of the Semiahmoo First Nation at city hall.
An international whale watching and conservation group says some of its members came across a rare and dramatic encounter between orcas and humpbacks off Vancouver Island this week.
While Carmen Spagnola puts a lot of effort into making and tending to her flower garden, the same couldn’t be said for growing her first pumpkin. "It felt like this random miracle that just happened," Carmen smiles.
Langford celebrated the opening of an innovative new residential building Thursday at 2830 Peatt Rd.