You know how you hear about those guys (or gals) who just have no luck? The ones who just can’t catch a break no matter hard they try? Yeah, that’s Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding.
Harding has been with the Wild his entire career after being drafted in 2002. He finally broke into the NHL after the last lockout but only played 10 games total over the next two seasons while playing most of his time in the AHL. The next three years saw him as the Wilds’ backup with a combined 73 games. Then he tore his ACL and MCL in September 2010 during a preseason game before the 2010-11 season. He missed the entire season rehabbing the injury.
But he came back to play 34 games last year, the most he had in a single season in the NHL. Things were looking up. Until this September when he started to not feel well.
It started with a tweak in his neck. That evolved into dizziness, seeing black spots and numbness in his right leg.
“I just knew that something wasn’t right,” Harding said. “Honestly, I hadn’t felt normal for a bit.”
He was right. That something turned out to be multiple sclerosis, “an incurable autoimmune disease in which the body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of his nerves and causes them to scar.”
He found out his diagnosis at the end of September and kept it hidden from everyone – teammates, management – except his immediate family until he was ready to admit the truth.
Fortunately, while MS is incurable it’s not untreatable so Harding will be able to continue to play hockey as long as he is up to it. At this point, he plans to play whenever there actually is a season. Seeing everything he’s gone through in his career, that doesn’t surprise me in the least.
I won’t attempt to do this story justice but Michael Russo over at the Star Tribune wrote two excellent pieces, one in which the quotes above came from, that everyone should read. You can find them here and here.
But I will say that I’m rooting for Harding to overcome the odds and achieve the goals he set ten years ago when he was drafted – to win the Cup with the Minnesota Wild. I’m not a Wild fan, but I think we can all agree it will be hard to root against them the next few years knowing Harding’s story.