With the news of the passing of young Ben Stelter on Aug. 9, many fans and players associated with the Edmonton Oilers felt a deep sense of loss. Ben passed away at the age of 6 years old from glioblastoma — a form of brain cancer. A friend of mine who also lost her son just a short time ago said there is no greater grief for a parent than losing a child. As a Dad myself, my heart goes out to Ben’s Dad Mike and his family who are grieving the loss of this amazing little boy.
Ben Stelter First Skated Into Oilers Hearts on March 24
Ben came into the hearts of Oilers players and fans back on March 24 when the Oilers invited Ben to skate with the team on the ice prior to their game against the San Jose Sharks.
The image of Ben skating alongside his hero Connor McDavid is one that fans will never forget. He went on to capture the hearts of more players such as Zach Hyman when he appeared with him at the post-game news conference. You could tell that this little boy meant the world to the Oilers players.
Play La Bamba Baby
My favourite memory of Ben is when he would encourage the Oilers to “Play La Bamba, baby” after each win in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Word of Ben’s story and the Oilers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final reached the band Los Lobos who recorded the song La Bamba in 1987 for the movie about the life of pop icon Richie Valens. They put out a tweet on May 27 mentioning that if the Oilers were to keep going in the playoffs they would come to Edmonton to play La Bamba for the fans.
The band also shared their condolences with the Stelter family and Oilers fans on Twitter when news came of Ben’s passing on Aug. 9. The origins of “Play La Bamba” go back to their former dressing room attendant Joey Moss. It was his favourite song, and the Oilers began a new tradition of playing it after every win during the 2021-22 season as a tribute to him, who sadly passed away in October of 2020 at the age of 57.
Related: Oilers Honour Joey Moss with Statue
Moss, like Stelter, was an inspiration to Oilers players and fans, as the team paid tribute to him with the unveiling of a statue just before the beginning of the 2021-22 regular season. He was a beloved figure in Edmonton, as his positive energy and commitment to helping others earned him many honours, including an induction into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Paying Tribute to Ben Stelter
The Oilers are a first-class organization that knows how to honour its heroes. Stelter is now among the long line of heroes associated with the team. As a fan, I hope the team invites Los Lobos to play La Bamba so all the fans can celebrate Ben’s life and impact with the song he loved to recite. Knowing the Oilers, they will certainly try and make a touching tribute like that happen.
I didn’t get the honour of meeting Ben Stelter, but in a way, I feel like I knew him. Whenever the TV cameras would show his family in the crowd at Oilers games, you could see the pure joy in their smiles as they expressed how proud they were of him. Ben was a brave, inspirational little boy who brought a lot of joy to Oilers fans everywhere. He will be forever remembered.
On behalf of the editors and writers of The Hockey Writers, we would like to send our deepest condolences to the Stelter family. Ben is one of those shining stars who graced our game for a brief moment but left an impact that will last a lifetime. We cannot thank the Stelter family enough for sharing Ben with all of us. Skate on Ben!
If you would like to make a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society in Ben’s honour, please visit cancer.ca.