After health battle, Wild’s Marco Rossi focused on making NHL

marco rossi
Wild TV

After having the start of his NHL career delayed, Marco Rossi is eyeing a regular spot in the Wild lineup.

“My goal is to make the NHL,” Rossi said on Wednesday. “I know how good I am. I know I can make it. I would say I have to prove myself. You have to earn that spot. It’s really hard. But first I’m focusing on my rookie camp. We have two games ahead of us. I’m not thinking too far ahead of me. Just thinking about this week, day by day, and to give my best every day.”

It’s been a long road back for Rossi, who missed all of last season after being diagnosed with myocarditis in January. He had tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020 and was able to recover in time to captain Austria at the World Junior Championship. Following the tournament, he attended Wild training camp when the ailment was discovered.

“It was scary,” said Rossi, the No. 9 overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. “You hear the doctors saying, ‘We don’t know if you’re ever going to reach your goal or that you’re ever be like you were before.'”

A step ahead

The good news is Rossi is 100% recovered and doctors have given him the green light to continue playing.

With rookie camp taking place this week, Rossi should be a step ahead having already played meaningful hockey in the last month. The 19-year-old was part of Austria’s three Olympic qualifying games in August where they fell short of clinching a berth to February’s Beijing Games.

Now fully recovered, Marco Rossi gets a second chance to start his NHL career and after what he’s been through over the last 10 months, he’s not taking it for granted.

“When I was injured, my passion was hockey, to play hockey,” Rossi said. “When I play hockey, that’s my passion. I love to play hockey. After such a long time, you realize how much you love the sport so especially right now when I’m out there, I always appreciate more to be out there because I’m just thankful I can play hockey again.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Q&A: Connor McDavid on Oilers’ offseason, NHL Olympic participation

    connor mcdavid
    Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

    The sting of a playoff exit is hard for Connor McDavid to shake. The Oilers captain needs some time following a series defeat before he can see how the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs shake out.

    “Probably not watching the series right after, but I’ll pick it back up as it closer and closer to the [Stanley Cup],” McDavid told NBC Sports on Monday as he attended the annual BioSteel hockey camp.

    Success has eluded McDavid and the Oilers. Edmonton has one postseason win since reaching the Second Round in 2017 and the raising of the Stanley Cup is no fun when you’re not involved.

    “Growing up, watching the day when the Cup is handed out is always a fun day when you’re a kid,” McDavid said. “The day the Cup’s handed out when you’re in the league is never necessarily a great day if you’re not lifting it. It’s obviously something that everyone wants to do. We’re no different in Edmonton. We want to bring a Cup to the fans of Edmonton and win a Cup for ourselves. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s a long way down the road. The first step is coming up here in a few weeks when we get together for camp.”

    We spoke to Connor McDavid about his summer training, the Oilers’ busy offseason, the NHL potentially going back to the Olympics, and more.

    Enjoy.

    Q. What are you looking to get out of these types of summer camps?

    CONNOR MCDAVID: “The main thing I’m trying to get out of here is feeling good about where my game’s at and measuring myself up against some other guys, if I need to tweak something or everything’s good. That’s always the biggest thing.”

    Q. We’ve seen how high of a level you can play at for six seasons now. What do you feel is left to improve in your game at 24 going on 25?

    MCDAVID: “I think just rounding the game out, being solid defensively, winning face-offs, and all the type of things that you need to do to win a championship. That’s obviously my only focus and also trying to figure out what I can do, what I can be better at to help my team do that.”

    Q. It’s been two years since your knee injury. What, if anything, are you doing differently in your summer training?

    MCDAVID: “No, I don’t think it’s changed. I was definitely introduced to some great people during that rehab. I still lean on them. It was rehab back then, now it’s a little bit more performance-based, which I like. I’ve been able to add on to your summer routine just from getting to know some of those people through that rehab process.”

    Q. How has your offseason training evolved? Are there things you’re doing now that you didn’t do your first few NHL seasons?

    MCDAVID: “I don’t think I’ve taken many things out, I’ve just added things. When you first get into the league and come through junior, you don’t really understand how it really is a full-time job. People don’t really understand that and how much work it takes. They only get to see the finished product on the ice, but there’s so many things that go into it. Just being a little more mature, understanding the game a little bit better has allowed me to add some things in and focus on things that I can improve on.”

    connor mcdavid
    BioSteel

    Q. As captain and one of the offensive leaders of the Oilers, how hard do you take it when seasons end like they have for you guys?

    CONNOR MCDAVID: “No one wants to lose and everyone wants to win a Cup. Anytime you don’t get to do that it’s obviously disappointing. We thought we had a better team the last two years and could have gone a little further than we did. Obviously, very disappointing and that should motivate everybody, and it certainly motivates me to get back to camp and make sure we get off to a good start and see what can happen.”

    Q. Given how the last few seasons have ended, Ken [Holland] was pretty aggressive this summer in trying to improve areas on the roster. What do you think about the additions of Duncan [Keith], [Zach] Hyman, [Cody] Ceci, bringing back Tyson [Barrie], Darnell [Nurse], among other moves?

    MCDAVID: “He’s had a very busy summer, and I love all the moves. Bringing in a guy like Keith, his winning ways and the culture that he’s coming from is only going to be good things for our team. He’ll be great for us in the room. He’s got lots of game left. We just played them in the [2020 playoff] bubble and he was great. Bringing in a guy like Hyman is great for us as well. He works so hard, he’s got more skill than people realize. His ability to just play is unbelievable.

    “There’s lot of guys that we brought in. Kenny’s done his job for the summer and it’s our job to put the group together and make sure that we’re all on the same page.”

    Q. Does Ken go to you for any input before he makes certain moves, just to get your thoughts on potential changes or guys he might be targeting?

    MCDAVID: “Kenny such a good GM. He’s built such a good relationship with his players. He certainly keeps guys in the loop — it doesn’t mean he’s asking for what we’re necessarily thinking. He definitely does a good job of keeping us in the loop. I know we all appreciate that a lot.”

    Q. It’s sounding like the NHL is very close to having a deal worked out to get you guys back at the Olympics. How important is Olympic participation and the chance to win gold to you and your personal goals?

    MCDAVID: “It’d be right up there with winning the Stanley Cup. Having the ability to play for your country at the Olympics and a best-on-best tournament, there’s nothing better than that. Being able to do that would be something to check off of the bucket list. And if we’re lucky enough to win a gold medal, [it’d be] so special.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Rod Gilbert, Hall of Famer for New York Rangers, dies at 80

    Rod Gilbert
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    NEW YORK — Rod Gilbert, the Hall of Fame right wing who starred for the New York Rangers and helped Canada win the 1972 Summit Series, had died. He was 80.

    Gilbert’s family confirmed the death to Rangers on Sunday. The team didn’t provide details.

    “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rod Gilbert – one of the greatest Rangers to ever play for our organization and one of the greatest ambassadors the game of hockey has ever had,” Rangers owner James Dolan said in a statement.

    “While his on-ice achievements rightly made him a Hall of Famer, it was his love for the Rangers and the people of New York that endeared him to generations of fans and forever earned him the title, `Mr. Ranger.”‘

    From Montreal, Gilbert spent his entire 18-year NHL career with the Rangers – a career that was nearly derailed In 1960 when he broke a vertebra in his back after slipping on garbage on the ice while playing for Guelph in the junior Ontario Hockey Association.

    Gilbert recovered and ended up with 406 goals and 615 assists in 1,065 regular-season games and 34 goals and 33 assists in 79 playoff games. In 1972, he had a goal and three assists in six games for Canada in its historic eight-game victory of the Soviet Union in the Summit Series.

    He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

    Gilbert appeared in eight All-Star Games and received the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1976 as the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

    His No. 7 jersey became the first number ever to be retired by the Rangers when it was raised to Madison Square Garden rafters on Oct. 14, 1979.

    Q&A: Riley Sheahan on his mental health podcast, dealing with free agency

    riley sheahan
    Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

    Riley Sheahan wanted to do something different. The veteran NHL forward has started the “Speak Your Mind” podcast with the goal of getting guests from the sports and music world to come on and discuss mental health issues.

    “When I first was thinking about it, [I was thinking] there’s no way I could do this,” Sheahan recently told NBC Sports. “It was really uncomfortable. I think that was one of the reasons when I’d sit and think about why I wanted to do it was because it’s something different. And if I could get some guys to speak about it and tell their stories and maybe get a little following, inspire some people to get help or face their inner demons, that’s the end goal.”

    The 29-year-old has teamed up with TorchPro, a sports media company started by Joe Pavelski. Getting people out of their comfort zones is one of the main goals of the company. Sheahan does a lot of work on mental health, and when the idea of a podcast was brought up, it took off.

    Upcoming guests include Tyler Smith from the Humboldt Broncos and Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

    “Those are two guys who have dealt with a lot of stuff,” Sheahan said. “I never had a bad childhood or a traumatic event, I just deal with these issues as a human being. I have a lovely family, good support group. I just wanted to put it out there that you can be normal and you can have issues, too. It’s just trying to hit that.”

    We spoke with Sheahan about the podcast, his experiences with mental health, and more.

    Enjoy.

    Q. If someone comes across the podcast for the first time, what’s the main takeaway you want them to have after listening?

    SHEAHAN: “The biggest thing would be the idea of vulnerability. It’s okay to be vulnerable. If you’re in a chaotic time in your life and you have some issues that come up, it’s inevitable and it’s okay to reach out and ask other people for help and to feel upset or angry. In saying that, there’s ways to be proactive and there’s resources out there that can really help. It doesn’t have to be a concrete thing where you wake up every day feeling upset.”

    Q. You mentioned on an episode you began having these thoughts and feelings around age 10 or 11. How did you handle that as you headed into your teenage years?

    SHEAHAN: “That’s what one of my goals is, is to get kids to think more proactively. If they start to feel these kind of things, it’s not like it’s bad, but take care of yourself and notice your pattern. As I grew up and I started playing junior hockey when I was 15, then I went away to school, I never acknowledged them and I started drinking and started ignoring those issues where I would start to feel a little stressed or anxious. Then when I got into a position where there was more pressure on me, it started to unravel and be a little bit more nerve-wracking and I felt like I didn’t have control of it.

    “If you can start young and you can acknowledge that you like to think and maybe sometimes you get yourself in those spirals, I think if you can put that out there and realize it and find the stuff that works for you to battle through it, it can be huge.”

    Q. During your decade in the NHL how have you seen fellow players change from being reticent to open up to feeling comfortable speaking about these topics.

    SHEAHAN: “It’s definitely changed a ton. When I first came into Detroit is when I first started feeling these issues. I brought them up to Ken Holland and [Mike Babcock] was our coach then. They were nothing but supportive, they were unbelievable. … I think now you see guys take care of themselves off the ice. It’s such a big advantage to be healthy, to recover well. I think a lot of that, if you can be proactive in how you take care of your body then a lot of that transfers over into how you feel mentally. You see it more and more guys focusing on their health, focusing on their breathing, the way they work out, all these different things that relate back to how they feel mentally.”

    Q. The alcohol issues in Detroit that led to your arrest, did that incident make you realize you needed some help.

    SHEAHAN: “Yeah, I definitely think that was a little bit of a wakeup call. I don’t think that issue was a one-off thing for me. It was just a matter of time that I got caught doing something really stupid. Even then, it still is a process to figure it out. I was fortunate enough as I grew older I started to really understand and I started to build a little bit of a fear and anxiety towards drinking, which was good for me to start to figure out how to cope with those stresses. That was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to start learning more about myself and try to figure some things out.”

    Q. That happened during your rookie year. A lot of young players may not think to go get help. How did the organization assist you during that period?

    SHEAHAN: “They were supportive in me getting help and whatever I needed to do to figure it out. That was meaningful to me and it was a relief to me. Being at that age, if you need help and you need to go get it, obviously you’ve got to do it and I don’t think anyone will judge you for it. Just at that age being cognizant of some of the feelings, if you’re going to go out and have a good time, that’s awesome. I think there’s a lot of camaraderie, things you can build [going out]. But I think if you’re drinking to the point where you’re starting to have these crazy thoughts and you’re blacking out, maybe you’ve got to learn from it and don’t be shy to start to dig and do some self-thinking and maybe some of those issues can be brought to the surface and you can learn from them.”

    Q. One misconception that some fans have is that you’re immune from mental health issues because you’re well-paid professional athletes. Is that something you see in locker rooms from other players, that they themselves feel like mental health issues can’t affect them?

    SHEAHAN: “You definitely see it, especially in males. Nobody wants to put their problems out there or act like they need help or need advice. You do see it sometimes. I think, too, now with everything coming to the forefront you have more conversations so I think it’s a little bit more of a comfortable topic. As a male athlete, there’s still a little bit more of that culture where you can’t show any weakness. 

    “I think it’s great when guys bring it up, when guys talk about it. It’s not like you have to bring it up in the locker room or have to talk to your teammates about it. But if you do have some issues maybe it’s something you talk with your family about or talk to the people close to you or if you have a therapist, it’s great. If you can be a little clear in the head and be a little more satisfied with your personal life it can translate onto the playing field.”

    Q. And there’s still more work to do in making fans understand what athletes go through and that you’re people — husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. Just look at the reaction to Simone Biles at the Olympic.

    SHEAHAN: “That’s a great example. I know there was a lot of people who had issues with it, but big picture you have to take care of your mental health before anything.”

    Q. I was amazed that some people immediately went to attack her instead of trying to understand what would cause a world-class athlete to make that decision.

    SHEAHAN: “Exactly. I think now in the age we’re in with the ability to access everybody’s personal lives and social media, it’s really easy to just judge people right off the get-go and not really know the facts behind things. It takes a lot to be curious about what that person’s dealing with and ask questions rather than immediately judging Simone Biles or whoever the person may be and calling her this and calling her that. What I would love people to do is just be a little more curious and maybe just give people benefit of the doubt more often than not.”

    Q. For a player like yourself who’s been on several teams the last few years and is currently unsigned, does that weigh much on your mental health or you understand that it’s part of the business?

    SHEAHAN: “It’s definitely tough. You always want stability. For me now, I also understand it’s part of the business. You just look at the positives, like you get to play this game that I’ve dreamed of playing since I was young, and I get to meet all these new people and experience new cities. [My wife and I] have a baby coming and she would definitely like to be stable in that way, but big picture you can only do this job for so long. You’ve just got to grind it out. These things that I incorporate into my daily routine revolving around mental health definitely help that.”

    Q. You’re going to be 30 soon, you’re married with a baby on the way. How much has age played a role in your comfort level now? If you were to have a mental health conversation with an 18- or 19-year-old Riley Sheahan, do you think he would have been open and receptive?

    SHEAHAN: “No chance [laughs]. I don’t think I would have been receptive. I don’t think I would have acknowledged that there’s maybe some underlying issues with me. I don’t think I really ever would have given it a thought. I love being around the young guys in the locker room because I love their energy. But I do think it’s important for kids, younger guys, whether it’s the college level or juniors, to just be aware of the different things that are out there that you can get sucked into. I think it translates over into the game and you can be a little bit more of a free-thinker, but I think if you just start to build these bad habits, you’re cutting your career short and maybe getting yourself into some negative things. 

    “I’m not one to say no to having fun, I still do. I love to be with my friends, love to go out, but there’s an area to sit back and reflect a bit and just be totally sure in the decisions you’re making.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Penguins’ Mike Sullivan named U.S. men’s Olympic head coach

    mike sullivan
    Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

    Mike Sullivan of the Penguins has been named head coach of the 2022 U.S. men’s Olympic team.

    “Mike is a proven winner and has been involved with USA Hockey on the international stage on many occasions,” said U.S. men’s general manager Stan Bowman. “He knows what it takes to get a team ready in a short tournament and we could not be happier to have him as our head coach as we look to bring home gold.”

    The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place from Feb. 4-20, 2022 in Beijing, China.

    Sullivan, the only American coach to win the Stanley Cup multiple times, has held numerous role in USA Hockey management over the years. He was an assistant under Peter Laviolette at the 2006 Olympics; head coach the 2007 World Championship team; assistant at the 2008 Worlds; scout for the 2015 national junior team; and an assistant at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey under John Tortorella.

    NHL Olympic deal yet to be worked out

    USA Hockey now has a head coach, general manager, and AGM (Bill Guerin), but no deal has been struck to send NHL players to Beijing. The IIHF, IOC and NHL continue to work on an agreement with the Winter Olympics seven months away. One of the roadblocks that prevented participation in PyeongChang 2018 was the IOC declining to help with transportation and insurance costs, as well as preventing the NHL from using footage from games.

    Last week, the NHL released its 2021-22 schedule with a February Olympic break built in, but also with the note that adjustments will be made if an agreement is not worked out. Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the Stanley Cup Final that the resolution date the league had in mind had already past, but they are committed to working out a deal after agreeing to do so for the NHLPA during last summer’s Collective Bargaining Agreement talks.

    Should NHL players stay home for the second straight Olympics, USA Hockey assistant executive director John Vanbiesbrouck does have a Plan B regarding the management team, allowing Bowman, Sullivan, and Guerin to go back working with their respective teams.

    If a deal is reached, USA Hockey has said it would like to hold an orientation camp at some point over the summer and announce the roster around Jan. 1, 2022.

    2022 Olympic men’s tournament groups

    Group A: Canada (1), USA (6), Germany (7), China (12)
    Group B: Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8), Qualifier 3 (11)
    Group C: Finland (3), Sweden (4), Qualifier 1 (9), Qualifier 2 (10)

    The final three qualifier spots (winner from each group) are still scheduled to be decided in late August.

    Group D: Slovakia (host), Belarus, Austria, Poland
    Group E: Latvia (host), France, Italy, Hungary
    Group F: Norway (host), Denmark, Korea, Slovenia

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.