Politics

TAIT: Ben Stelter’s experience an example of the potential for inclusion in sports


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The Ben Stelter experience could be just beginning, and has the potential of being — everyone say it with me, loud and clear — inclusive on levels we have never considered previously.

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Just look at the images.

Ben, the  five-year-old living with brain cancer, skated with Connor McDavid to centre ice.

He gave fist pumps to the team — every one of them — before they glided on to the ice against the Los Angeles Kings.

Ben is, absolutely, part of the team.

Not a mascot.

Not a good-luck charm — although his record is solidly stellar.

Not the kid who shows up, often sadly uninvited, into a victorious dressing room.

None of those.

But, most certainly a teammate: someone who may not have the skills — passing, shooting, hitting, skating — in this case, hockey.

Someone who, because of their individualism and extraordinary philosophy, achieve the highest level they can.

Five-year-old Scotiabank Skater Ben Stelter stands with the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks during the national anthems at a NHL game at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Ben is currently battling glioblastoma.
Five-year-old Scotiabank Skater Ben Stelter stands with the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks during the national anthems at a NHL game at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Ben is currently battling glioblastoma. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

So … what do you think, hockey Edmonton?

What do you think of somehow —- only too happy to help here — coming up with a program to integrate you disabled Edmontonians with minor hockey teams as part of the team.

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Start in the earliest level.

Find kids with illnesses and disabilities who cannot play the game but want to be part of it.

Not a mascot.

Not a patronizing pat on the shoulder.

But a teammate.

And — much like the young player who isn’t sure if they want to play defence, goal or forward in their first year — give them opportunities as years roll on.

Maybe a statistician.

Maybe giving the pre-game speech.

Maybe the eye-in-the-stands talking to the bench.

Maybe giving the game puck to the player they think was the best.

Maybe …

And they wear a team jersey, with their own number, with a team jacket.

Inclusion?

You bet.

And, hey: wouldn’t it be neat if a kid followed a team for 10 years?

Let’s dream big, now.

What if those team members were eligible  in Western Hockey League bantam draft, based on their performance?

Please.

Let’s consider it.

For years, integrating kids with disabilities into, say, a phys. ed class, has made them timekeepers and off-court officials.

While there’s merit to that, the gift of belonging and being part of a team isn’t there.

But …. It can be.

Absolutely.

So let’s applaud — goal horn, too — the Oilers for accepting Ben as s teammate.

Let’s see where it goes.

cam@camtait.com



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