The friendship between a young cancer patient and University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team captain Bailee Bourassa was celebrated in this year’s annual Play For a Cure game at Merlis Belsher Place on Feb. 4.
This year’s game was played in honour of Rhodes McNairn, a seven-year-old boy in remission from a form of leukemia.
Bourassa has been working on her masters in nursing, but also works at the children’s hospital. That is how she met Rhodes.
“I just remember in the hospital he was so hard to get a set of vital signs because he would be jumping from the couch to the bed and he just couldn’t sit still,” says Bourassa with a smile. “He would just chat your ear off the whole time and that is kind of how I grew to love him.”
That relationship is sweet enough, but what made the story sweeter was when Bourassa scored during the game, she pointed up at Rhodes, smiling and waving at her from the stands. Then she scored a second. And wouldn’t you know it, she added a third for the hat-trick — the first in her U Sports career coming in her 5th and final season.
“When I reflect on that night I could never trade anything for that night, in the world,” said Bourassa. “It is something that I will cherish forever. Forever.”
Adding to an already great story for Huskie Athletics is the fact that Rhodes’ mom and dad are also Huskie alumni.
“He’s been watching Huskie Athletics since he was a baby,” says his mom Sharlene McNairn. “He’s only been connected with Huskies women’s basketball and football, so it’s great to have the opportunity to be connected with Huskies hockey and watch more games and cheer on the amazing community which is Huskie Athletics.”
Bourassa was ecstatic to record her first career hat-trick, but the real icing on the cake took place a few days later, after she was invited to Rhodes’ — a.k.a. Champ’s — eighth birthday.
“Yeah after the game, he told me he’s turning eight and he said, ‘you’re invited to my birthday Bailee.’ And I said ‘you know what, I’ll be there,'” Baillee smiled.
Not surprisingly Howler, the Huskies’ mascot, also got an invite.