When Sully Rossnagel was 18 months old, he knew all the hand gestures for penalties in hockey.
By the time Sully was two he wanted to start skating. His mom and dad, Mira and Steve, couldn’t find skates small enough, though, so Sully had to wait until he was three. Sully has been hard to get off the ice ever since but something happened on Feb. 20 of this year that was a bit of a setback.
While on a family vacation, Sully began feeling unwell. He was tired and just wasn’t acting like himself.
At first his parents thought this was related to Sully staying up a little later or maybe being over-excited. It soon became apparent that something really was wrong, so they took him to a nearby hospital. A CT scan revealed a brain tumour, and within a few hours Sully would undergo the first of two surgeries to remove it. He ended up being diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis, a rare, multi-system genetic disease that causes non-malignant tumors to grow in the brain and on other vital organs.
Today Sully is doing well, fully functioning, and running around like most five-year-old monkeys, having all kinds of fun. He is back on the ice and word is he’s looking pretty darn good. He tips the scales at a ferocious 49 pounds and stands a towering 3’ 8". He’s real smooth with the puck, has a 200-foot game, and plays solid in all areas of the ice. Sully is known to be a handful in the corners, and sometimes (like his dad) he has to be reminded to keep his elbows down.
When I asked Sully how much fun he has playing hockey, he was too shy to say much to me but he held his hands as far apart as he could.
Then his mom, sensing I needed help with the interview, asked him, "If you could use any words to say how much you love hockey, which words would you use?"
Sully thought for a moment, smiled at his mom, then leaned towards her and said, "I love you."
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood is co-host of The Big Show, every weekday morning from 6 to 10 a.m. on TSN 1290 radio. He writes about Winnipeg’s unsung sports heroes every other week in the Canstar Community News weeklies.