Minnesota Wild top prospect Marco Rossi's NHL career was almost completely derailed before it even began.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Michael Russo the 19-year-old center revealed how close he thought he was to never returning to the ice again, while detailing the fears he had for his own life, too.
With North American hockey on standstill, the Wild loaned Rossi to the Zurich Lions of the Swiss National League and, after playing just one game, he tested positive for COVID-19 and the whole team went into quarantine.
After some slight recovery, Rossi headed west to represent his native Austria at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alta. It was there when he first began to feel extreme fatigue.
“At the tournament, that was the highest point where I said, ‘OK, I can’t do it anymore. I’m so tired,’” Rossi said. “Everyone was like, ‘What’s wrong, Marco? You always go on the ice.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I’m so tired.’ Everyone was shocked.”
With the tournament over, he flew to St. Paul to attend his first NHL training camp after being drafted ninth overall in 2020. It was there that he was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can greatly affect its ability to continue pumping.
“The doctors told me if I played one more game in the World Junior Championship, this could have ended completely different,” Rossi said. “I’m thankful to God that he supported me. … I’m just happy that I’m still alive.”
Rossi was so terrified of the prognosis that he wanted his parents to stay by his side while he slept.
“Every time before I went to sleep, I was so scared that I won’t wake up anymore,” Rossi said. “Every night, before sleep, I was really sad and always crying because I was scared of that. I told my parents, ‘Could you sleep right next to my bed and be here ‘til I fall asleep?’ And every day I woke up in the morning, I was so glad that I woke up. It was really hard.”
After months of rest and recovery, Rossi is set to go undergo more tests in the next few weeks that will determine if he can increase the intensity of his training, as he works his way up to hopefully attending Minnesota’s training camp this fall.
For a player known to put himself through freakishly intense workout sessions this time away from the gym has been difficult for Rossi, to say the least.
“I’m used to training every day like really hard,” Rossi said. “For the first few days, it was really weird because I was just sitting on the couch watching movies. I was like shaking. I wanted to do something. That’s been the hardest part of this time.”
With four months to gradually work his way back into game shape — if given the all-clear by his doctors — Rossi has some time to eventually claim his spot on the 2021-22 Minnesota Wild roster.
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