Hearts were pounding in the bodies of all Oilers fans as the game against the St. Louis Blues was to go beyond regulation. The Blues, trying to run the clock down as a frightening pair of McDavid and Draisaitl skated, waiting to get possession. It took one save by Mike Smith for the Oilers to get a chance the other way, and of course, the dynamic duo connected, with the roar of the crowd flooding the arena, and a long blast of the Oilers’ goal horn. There in the stands was Ben Stelter, for his fourth straight home game, seeing nothing but victory on the ice, and in his life.
Ben Stelter, a five-year-old Oilers superfan, is currently battling glioblastoma and was given the honour to be on the ice at Rogers Place for the singing of the national anthems with his hockey hero, Connor McDavid. As arguably the best player in the game, and a player that has battled through injuries to only come back better than before, Ben looks up to McDavid, and there is hope seen by himself, his family, and the community around him.
The Oilers looked to provide their support for Stelter by getting thousands of fans to cheer and support him, so he knows he has the entire Oilers community behind him.
Ben was seen in a post-game interview with forward Zach Hyman, which was simply very wholesome. Ben, when being asked who his favourite player was instantly said “McDavid and Draisaitl’ without any hesitation. Hyman acknowledged the choices with a “no offence taken” remark, followed by a few laughs.
Ben gives the Oilers community something else than just hockey. He displays a story of resilience and inspiration, that many people, even outside of the fanbase can learn and develop from. The simple complaints that people make in their day-to-day lives are often so minimal compared to what Ben is going through, and he still has a smile on his face through the bad days. The importance of hockey in his life is what makes the story so much more down-to-earth, as that’s what he seems he wants most through his troubles.
There appears to be a direct impact on the club as they won four games straight, while also winning nine straight home games. The players and the staff recognize Ben and his inspiring story, and if that means more effort is put into each game, then that’s what it takes.
The feeling Ben gets when he sees McDavid is completely mutual between the two. The NHL superstar met Ben earlier in the year and stated, “He lights up every room he’s in. Just seeing him skate out there for the starting lineup was pretty special for me, and to see the crowd react like they did was really cool.” Being able to light up any room is a special comment, especially for somebody who faces so much adversity on a daily basis. The room lights up not because of pure sympathy, but admirability.
Like any other sport, hockey is a business that brings in money to provide entertainment for the public. But there is more to it than just a business. A sports fan base at the end of the day is its own community that provides assistance and support for those in need of it, and they all gather together for the common acknowledgement of their favourite team.
The Oilers, with a demanding 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on March 24, looked good for not only the team but for the fans and most importantly, Ben. Securing a win, with the biggest Oilers fan in the stands is what made the remainder of the homestand so special. If Ben can battle through something much more than a hockey game, the Oilers had to deliver, and give the close community of fans a night to remember, for the inspiration, Ben Stelter.
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