Marco Rossi of Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League is doing everything he can to stay in shape at home in Austria, hopeful he might receive a call telling him to return to Canada for the OHL playoffs.
The 5-foot-9, 183-pound center, who returned home to Feldkirch, Austria, on Tuesday, is disappointed the best season of his career was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he's grateful for his health and the opportunity to be with his family.
The OHL announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season Wednesday. Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch said a decision on the status of the OHL playoffs would be made at a later date.
"I have weights, a bike, a hockey goal that I can shoot at," Rossi said. "I'm just trying to keep in shape because you never know if the season comes back or not. My dad tells me to stay professional right now because you never know. Our coach can call me tomorrow and tell me to be back and then I'd have to be ready."
Rossi, who is No. 5 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, led all Canadian Hockey League players (OHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League) with 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in 56 games. It's the most by any OHL player since Alex DeBrincat had 127 in 63 games with Erie in 2016-17.
He finished eight points ahead of Rimouski left wing Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Lafreniere led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games.
Rossi's father, Michael, was a professional hockey player in Austria for 20 years so he not only offers sound advice but is with his son during workouts.
"I'm doing a little bit of everything every day since you're not going on the ice, so you have to maybe eat a little less because if you eat the same amount, you may be gaining weight since there's no on-ice training," Rossi said. "It's just a matter of being smart. I have good personal coaches in Austria and in Ottawa, so it's a good mix."
Rossi said the Austria government has advised everyone to remain in their homes during the pandemic, so maintaining a workout schedule and spending time with his family each day has become a priority.
"It's pretty bad but I think the country reacted well," he said. "We're not allowed to go outside, and we have strict rules right now. I'll wake up in the morning around 8 o'clock, practice and work out for maybe one or two hours, have some lunch, rest a bit in the afternoon and spend some time with the family, and then around 4 o'clock, begin training again with dad.
"Staying healthy is the most important thing right now."
Rossi's agent, Serge Payer of Unlimited Sports Management, told his client to treat this time at home as he would his usual offseason workouts.
"No matter what you do off the ice, it'll never bring you to the fitness level you need to be on the ice, but you can still control your aerobic activity such as running, jumping, biking and bodyweight workouts using your resistance bands," Payer said. "Using your thicker resistance bands for dry-skate exercise workouts, as you have limited equipment access for lifting exercise, and of course shooting, puck and stick-handling on your own.
"I told Marco to stay tuned as we gather more fact-driven information and meet internally with our player development associates. He just needs to continue to work hard and enjoy family time."
Rossi said that when news of the COVID-19 virus broke, he initially thought it would be best to remain in Ottawa to train and stay in shape. When the situation worsened, he decided to return home to his parents and two sisters.
"They shut down everything, so I asked coach (Andre Tourigny) what more can I do if I can't do anything in Canada," Rossi said. "When my parents found out I couldn't do anything, they wanted me to come home and to be safe, so that's what I did."
Rossi has more than just a return to playoff hockey on his mind. He and his Ottawa teammates have been waiting for an opportunity to atone for what happened last season, when they lost to Guelph in six games in the best-of-7 OHL championship series.
"Of course, I'm hoping for (the playoffs) but right now the health is the most important thing," Rossi said. "If (playoffs) happen, that's good. But if not ... health is the most important thing. This is very serious."
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