Spartan hockey player Kevin Rosset had a long journey before arriving at Castleton College two years ago.
Rosset is not your traditional college student, having found his way to Castleton from Crans Montana, Switzerland in the heart of the Swiss Alps.
His house sits on the plateau of a ski resort where his father teaches skiing lessons.
So how did a Swiss mountaineer like Rosset end up so far from home at a small school in tiny Castleton, Vt.?
For Rosset the answer is simple: Hockey.
“The main reason I came here is because back home you can only play junior hockey until you’re 20 years old, so when I turned 20 I was playing my last year of juniors,” Rosset said. “So my dad pushed me to come to the United States and play another year of juniors.”
You’d think it would be a scary experience coming to the United States, 5000 miles away from your friends and family. But Rosset has been away from home since he was 12 years old when he lived with his relatives and played hockey in the city of Geneva, some three hours from his home.
“I was kind of used to being away from home, but when I came to the States it was totally different.” Rosset said.
Rosset’s journey here began three years ago when he was recruited to play for the Cheyenne Stampede junior hockey team in Cheyenne, Wyoming. At the time, he only knew the fundamentals of English.
“I learned the basic English skills at school (in Switzerland). But when I came here three years ago, the English I learned at school didn’t help me at all. I was kind of lost. All I knew was, ‘my name is Kevin.’”
During his time in Wyoming, he played junior hockey and steadily adjusted to the English language with the help of his host family.
“I thought I learned (English) pretty fast. My host family had three kids and they really helped me out a lot because they were using an easier vocabulary so I kind of learned a little bit faster,” he said.
Rosset also had a hard time adjusting to the culture, especially the food.
“People here eat a lot of fast food like McDonalds. We don’t really have a lot of fast food back home. It’s mainly expensive restaurants,” Rosset explained. “We also eat a lot of cheese. There’s not as much of that here.”
After his season with the Stampede ended with a loss in the first round of the playoffs, it was time for Rosset to seek out a college where he could continue to play hockey.
“Back home, you can’t play sports for school,” Rosset explained. “College and sports are two separate things. If I were to go to college back home I would not be able to play hockey. Here, I can do both at the same time.”
In 2013 Rosset became a Spartan and played as a center on the hockey team. The team, with the addition of Rosset, fought their way to the second round of the playoffs where they fell one goal short to conference leader Norwich.
“I thought we performed really well that year,” said Rosset’s teammate Patrick Thornton. “We just couldn’t get the win against Norwich, unfortunately.”
Coming back as a sophomore the following year, Rosset had high hopes for the season.
“I was starting to become more comfortable with the style of play that you see in D3 hockey,” Rosset said.
But during the first month of the season, Rosset injured himself during a workout.
“We were doing broad jumps and then he kind of just tweaked his back and went down,” Thornton said. “I could tell that he was in pain.”
Rosset was brought to the training room, where he was examined. He was told his back injury was minor and he was okay to continue playing. However, during the next game, he injured his back again.
“I stopped, twisted and turned and my lower back again gave out on me,” he said.
“Initially I didn’t know anything had happened to him,” said head coach Steve Moffat. “It wasn’t a hit against the boards or something that you could really tell affected him.”
Rosset lied down in the training room for an hour and returned to his room for the night. But his troubles didn’t end there.
“The next morning I woke up and I couldn’t even get out of bed,” Rosset said. “So I laid on the ground, called my parents, and that’s when they called the ambulance and I went right to the hospital.”
Rosset was prescribed strong pain medication and issued an MRI. When he returned to Switzerland over Christmas break, he was informed that he had two herniated disks and would need surgery if he hoped to continue playing hockey.
Rosset underwent surgery on Christmas day and was bed-ridden for the rest of his winter break.
But he was not alone in his recovery. With the help of friends and family, he was able to stay positive.
“They helped me out a lot because I was alone and just felt like a lot of people were behind me supporting me with my injury. I really appreciate that,” Rosset said.
A big supporter was his father.
“For me, it’s like what can I do next to help him recover and to be in good shape for next season,” said Rosset’s father, Oliver Rosset. “We’ve been involved in his hockey and practice time year-round so once he’s injured it’s a sad feeling.”
Despite Rosset’s injury, the hockey team went on to have a decent season with a record of 11-16. It ended during the first round of the playoffs, where the Spartans lost to Norwich by one goal for the sixth year in a row.
“We were one of the best teams in the league going into playoffs and then once again we fell a goal short against Norwich,” Thornton said.
“Sometimes you can’t always judge a season by wins and losses,” Moffat said. “We played our best games during the playoffs and as a coach, that’s what you’re looking for.”
For Rosset, it then became all about rehabilitation.
For the first three months, he was told to refrain from any physical activity. After this period of rest he began physical therapy.
“I did a lot of rehab in the pool,” he said. “It really helped me because the pool was easy on my back. After about two months of that, I started riding the stationary bike in the gym.”
Now, six months after the injury, he is beginning to work with the team again.
“It’s good to have Kevin back,” Thornton said. “He’s doing pretty much everything that we do except with a bit lighter weight and avoiding stuff that’s hard on his back. I think he’s definitely getting stronger and building up his confidence.”
Whether Rosset will be ready to step back onto the ice next season is questionable. But he is doing everything that he can to make that goal possible.
“This summer I’m going to work really hard,” Rosset said. “I have a huge program planned that my dad is going to help me with and I plan to come back next year and have a great season.”
Moffat hopes so.
“Kevin brings some skill to the team that we lost when he couldn’t play,” Moffat said. “Hopefully he can come back 100 percent next season. Only time will tell.”
Rosset’s hockey career will not end after his four years at Castleton are over. He plans to seek out a professional team either in the States or back in Europe.
“I think next season will be a big year for him to see how he does with his injury and how he can perform. As long as he stays focused I’m going to be behind him to help him anywhere he can be,” Oliver Rosset said.
Whatever comes next for Rosset, he said he’ll be ready for it.
“We’ll see where life takes me,” he said.