OAKVILLE, ONT. (CTV Network) -- When I was approached about this story, I was reluctant.
Not because it wasn’t compelling, it was. I was reluctant mostly because I knew it would be emotionally difficult and because it was about a teenage boy who played AA rep hockey.
Every day I look at my teenage son. I run him to the hockey rink, I take him to team dinners, team building events and tournaments. I engage with other hockey parents and his coaches. I live the exact same sport parent life that Susan and Greg Teague were living with their son Ben in 2019.
My teenage son also plays AA rep hockey. I have witnessed the good and bad in this sport and cultural practices that involve alcohol. I have seen first-hand behaviours in hockey that don’t exist in other youth sports.
When we met with Susan and Greg in December 2022 to hear their story, I looked around their warm home. Their Christmas tree was up, they had photos of their youngest son Ben gathered on the shelf, they were putting together a wall of family photos.
This would be the third Christmas they wouldn’t have with Ben, who died suddenly at a team building camp with his hockey team in September 2019.
We interviewed Susan and Greg separately. Susan was nervous. She told us she wanted to make sure that what happened to Ben didn’t happen again and that the culture of ‘what happens on the team stays within the team’ stops. She wanted to keep investigating, to keep fighting to find out what happened to her youngest son.
Greg spoke on camera for well over an hour, a conversation that allowed him to share his fondest moments of Ben, as a six-year-old learning to skate, and his darkest moment learning that Ben had passed. The process of interviewing parents who have lost a loved one is deeply moving and never fades.
The Teagues have mounted a great effort. They have independently interviewed many of Ben’s teammates with their parents and have learned that at the 2019 camp there was a party, allegedly with drinking, vapes, and drugs in electronic vaporizers called dab pens and that the boys had all chipped in.
She also learned there was a maze at the camp where in the previous year the senior boys chased the rookies naked in a game of manhunt and that, in 2018, Ben had won.
FRUSTRATION OVER INVESTIGATIONS
They are frustrated with the police investigation, the medical investigation, and what they see as the lack of accountability by coaches. They say they believe that valuable evidence has been lost in the more than three years since Ben died.
While working through the visual elements we’d need to tell this story, I asked the Teagues if they had been to a hockey rink together since Ben had died. They hadn’t. It took them great courage to do that for this story.
I felt it would be too triggering for them to enter a rink where Ben would have played so we found a location in another city. We stood back to let them take in the empty rink we had rented.
A week or so later, I realized I would need some visuals of a teen player skating on the ice, I knew we’d want to capture images that represent Ben’s jersey, his stick, his skates.
I was thinking of creating shots that would pay tribute to Ben. I slept on it and realized how valuable those memories are of their son and that Ben’s Oakville Ranger’s uniform should not be worn again.
I asked my teenage son, who, like Ben, plays defence, if he would help me with these shots and that he could wear just a plain jersey -- no logos, no numbers.
He said, “Of course mom.” I showed him Ben’s picture and a video clip of Ben skating. He said “Mom, he’s really great.” I said, “yes.” It wasn’t lost on either of us that on Saturday when this episode airs, we’ll be in an arena at a playoff game.
Watch W5's documentary 'What Happened to Ben" on CTV, Saturday at 7 p.m.
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