“He was an amazing little guy who lit up every room he was in,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said.
“This is a very tough day for entire Oilers family, all the fans, but most importantly, the family,” he said. “It’s just a terrible day and we’re thinking about the entire Stelter family.”
When he was four, Ben was diagnosed with glioblastoma — an aggressive type of brain cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the tumour, as well as several rounds of chemotherapy and dozens of radiation sessions. However, last December, the tumour returned and Ben began more rounds of radiation treatments over the winter.
His family revealed he passed away Tuesday night.
“The world lost the most special boy and an absolute hero last night,” his dad Mike Stelter said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday. “Ben, you were the best son we could ever hope for and you were my best bud ever.
“Our hearts are left with a Ben-sized hole in them and life will never be the same without you. We are absolutely crushed. We love you our sweet Benny boy.”
Ben captured the hearts of the team and the hockey world with his viral videos cheering team on. A huge Oilers fan, Ben’s dream was to meet McDavid. The two met last fall and then, in March, Ben skated to centre ice with his hero for the anthems.
“Ben meant so much to myself, to my teammates,” McDavid said Thursday. “The relationship that developed over the course of a year or so was something I certainly won’t forget.
“Sharing that moment with him… to see his face, be close with him… Not a lot of people get to experience what the ice feels like, what it sounds like. It was pretty loud in there. To experience that with him was really special for me and something I’ll always remember.”
McDavid said he fell in love with Ben and his entire family after their first meeting.
“I just loved being around him.
“Just such an amazing kid. So strong, so brave. When you watch someone go through that… especially a five or six-year-old kid, that was so inspiring. He was such a fighter.”
Zach Hyman shared memories of when Ben joined him for a post-game news conference.
“He wasn’t nervous or shy at all. He was ready to go on stage, excited to go on stage.
“Some players would be nervous in front of a room full of media. This guy was excited, huge smile on his face.
“Someone asked him who his favourite player was and he looked at me and said: ‘Connor,'” Hyman said with a laugh. “They really did have a special connection.
“The fans were all chanting his name. That was a really cool moment… something I’ll cherish forever.”
Ben, Hyman agreed, had a special energy about him.
“If any of you met Ben, you understand… he lit up any room. What he went through, you wouldn’t know it just by meeting him. He always had a smile on his face… He was such a good kid.
“He touched the entire hockey world. He’s going to be greatly missed. He’s such an inspiration for all of us. What he went through puts everything in perspective,” Hyman added.
“We’ll miss him a lot.”
Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said the loss is hitting the team hard and they’re all sending their deepest sympathies and condolences to Ben’s family.
“As a father myself, I get to see the impact professional athletes have on children. But what I found really interesting about our time with Ben was how a child had an impact on an organization and team.
“I was greatly impressed with the courage of a young man who defined what a bright light was,” Woodcroft said.
“It put a lot of things in perspective for a lot of people in defining what’s important in life. To see the courage this young man had to battle what he had to battle and the lessons to be learned from him.
“We lost a little boy who displayed nothing but courage on a daily basis (and) he was able to inspire a team, he was able to inspire a city.
“It was special for me to see the affect he had on so many people. I know I’m just thankful for the time I got to spend with him. We lost a bright light but his spirit will live on.”