What an up and down season it’s been for Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding. Drafted 38th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Minnesota, Harding has had a bit of a journey getting to the NHL.
After a very respectable season backing up Niklas Backstrom last year, he was signed to a three-year deal that all but guaranteed him his dream job as Minnesota Wild No. 1 netminder. However, that dream was nearly lost when Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last fall. Josh refused to let the incurable disease put his life on hold and won his first start of the season with a 24 save 1-0 shutout win over the Dallas Stars on January 20th.
He would play just three more games before medication complications forced him on the shelf. There is no quit in Josh Harding, however, and, after a two-game conditioning stint with the Houston Aeros, Harding is ready to resume his duties as principal challenger to Backstrom’s throne. Still, that doesn’t mean things will be easy in his return to the lineup.
“A couple days you wonder: ‘Are things going to get better?’” said Harding after returning to practice a few weeks ago. “The scariest thing was when I tried some things that were supposed to help me and they didn’t. That was when it started getting to me and this might be serious. You think about hockey, how your life is going to change…
“The one thing that the doctors have taught me, every case of MS is different; you really don’t have that baseline where you can look at somebody in a similar situation because their MS probably isn’t the same as yours. You have to find what works for you.”
Nominees for the Bill Masterton Trophy are NHL players that, “Exemplify perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey” and are selected by the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA). The winner is selected by a poll conducted amongst the 30 PHWA chapters at the conclusion of the regular season. Just give him the trophy now—he certainly deserves it.