Every fan and player has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately for most of us, it has been an inconvenience rather than a danger. That isn’t the case for Marco Rossi, who tested positive in late 2020 and returned to Austria because of long-term complications in January 2021.
Marco Rossi’s Wild Ride
There is little more frightening than to see someone has “returned to rest with his family” after catching a disease. That happened after the 19-year old Rossi tested positive after joining the ZSC Lions of the Swiss League. With the OHL shut down, the Minnesota Wild loaned him to Switzerland where he has a player license. After a single game, he tested positive and the organization went into quarantine.
He went back home with few symptoms, eventually joining the Austrian National Team in Canada for the World Juniors. It was a month after the positive test, and Rossi had little reason to think it was anything more than an annoyance. He didn’t rejoin the Lions, preferring to rest completely for the international tournament. That was just as well, as the team had another outbreak in early December. But Rossi was ready to help his junior team make their mark in Canada.
Except he didn’t. By the end of four games, Austria had a single goal and an utterly exhausted Marco Rossi. It was strange for the teen, accustomed as he was to leading his teams in ice time. Still, Austria was easily handled by the other nations, being outscored 29-1. Just looking at that number is enough to depress anyone, never mind playing through it. He went from the tournament to the Minnesota Wild training camp, eager for the new experience.
Next Stop, Stopping
In Minnesota, Rossi failed his cardiac screening and was ordered to shut everything down for two months. He had an inflammation of the heart – myocarditis – and wouldn’t be allowed any exercise at all for at least 60 days. Like most top-level athletes, Rossi was used to working out every day, so he tried to barter. As he said in an interview with The Athletic’s Michael Russo:
“The doctors told me if I played one more game in the World Junior Championship, this could have ended completely different,” Rossi said Tuesday, his voice still quavering from the memory of how close he may have been to a tragic ending. “I’m thankful to God that he supported me. … I’m just happy that I’m still alive.”
That was enough to get the message through. He was sent home by the Wild where he spent the next days coming to terms with what the diagnosis meant, including how close he came to pushing himself beyond what was safe. His father, Michael, played professional hockey for 20 years and was able to talk to Marco from an athlete’s perspective. Eventually, the time came for another round of tests, and Marco passed with flying colours. Light workouts followed, then another set of tests in May. Again he easily passed them and is heading back to the ice for another challenge.
I can confirm that Marco Rossi (MIN) will play for Austria in their Olympic qualification games in Bratislava from August 26-29. He wanted games before Wild camp. Austria’s camp starts August 16 and also includes two exhibitions against Hungary and Italy August 21/22. He’s back.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 4, 2021
Marco Rossi VS the World
It may not be a league of seven evil exes, but in two weeks it’s going to be a brawl. Austria is in hard to qualify, and they could use a healthy and eager Marco Rossi. The world’s 15th-ranked team needs what talent it can get, and Rossi has enough to change any game he’s in. Rossi led the OHL with over two points per game with the Ottawa 67’s, getting 120 points in just 56 games, clearing Cole Perfetti’s 111 in 61 easily.
While this tournament is against men rather than the juniors, there is reason to believe Rossi can be the difference. Austria will have to finish at the top of their group, but instead of facing Czechia, the US, or Sweden he’ll be up against Slovakia, Belarus, and Poland. Even if he can’t push Austria into the Olympics, he will be getting games in at an international level. Falling short on this goal will still help get him in game shape for his first NHL training camp.
And this time his heart is ready for it, physically and metaphorically.
Main Photo: EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 26: Marco Rossi #23 of Austria skates against the United States during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)