Having scored nine goals in a hockey game, Chase Bass was signed to a contract Thursday by the Carolina Hurricanes in a hastily called news conference at PNC Arena.
“We were able to sign one of the top free agents out there on the market,” general manager Ron Francis said before helping Bass into a Hurricanes jersey and cap.
Chase will have to wait a few years to play with the Canes. He’s 7 years old and still has some growing to do. His “contract” was an honorary one.
Chase and his family were at PNC Arena as part of a visit arranged by the Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina. His mother, Tonya Bass, said he suffers from Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of white blood cell cancer first diagnosed in September 2015.
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Chase’s wish was to play a street hockey game with Canes forward Jeff Skinner, but Skinner didn’t have all the fun. He was joined by Canes goalie Cam Ward, forwards Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and defenseman Jaccob Slavin on a unseasonably warm day outside the arena.
Chase was told he could pick his team and chose Skinner, Ward and “Stormy,” the Canes’ mascot. John Forslund, handling the play-by-play, took a look at Staal, Aho and Slavin and asked Chase if he was sure those were the three he wanted on his team.
“Yes,” Chase said, tapping fists with Stormy.
Game on. Chase dominated for the “Hurricanes” team in a victory over the “Storm,” scoring at will in the 15-minute game. Chase’s younger brother Brantley, 3, was on the “Storm” and at one point decided he needed to fight someone, throwing a flurry of haymakers at … air. Or maybe it was, say, an imaginary Zdeno Chara.
“Our team captain Chase kind of put the team on his back,” Skinner said, smiling. “It was nice. I think I was plus-8 today. When he’s putting ’em in, I’ll just take the pluses.”
But there was a lot of pluses to this visit. Before the game, the Bass family, from Richlands, took in a Canes practice. Canes coach Bill Peters brought the team to the bench afterward to say hello, and Chase soon was in the locker room sitting next to Skinner.
And talking hockey. A lot. No big-eyed, shy response from Chase Bass. He knows his hockey, and he had some ideas for Skinner including when to shoot the puck.
“He’s got some good tips,” Skinner said. “I don’t think I should share them all or the secret will get out. But he’s smart. He has that goal-scorer’s mentality.”
After talking with Skinner, Chase soon was chatting up Peters, advising the coach that in the next shootout to use Lee Stempniak and Aho.
Wait, no Skinner in the shootout?
“He’s a smart kid I said,” Skinner said, laughing. “I’m cold right now. Those two are hot.”
After the “news conference,” after receiving a bag of Canes hockey gear from Francis, Chase and his family – including his father, Leon; older brother Dylan, 15; and sister Sariah, 10 – ate lunch at the arena. They’ll be back Friday, watching the Canes’ game against the Buffalo Sabres from a suite at PNC Arena, which Francis said was Chase’s “compensation” for the one-day signing.
Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina grants about 200 wishes a year in 49 counties, said Jerry Peters, vice president, brand advancement.
“Wish experiences like Chase’s help unite and comfort the wish families who are faced with the enormous medical, emotional and financial challenges associated with the care of their child,” Peters said.
Tonya Bass said Chase is being treated at a cancer center in Greenville and at Duke University. She said the prognosis for Chase is “good.”
Asked about the Make-A-Wish visit, Chase called it a “fun day.”
“It’s amazing,” Tonya Bass said. “Just all smiles. I don’t think anything can be better than this Cloud Nine right now.”