More than a month ago, Josh Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord; a disease whose symptoms include muscle spasms and weakness, disorientation and vision problems.
In other words: a disease that might prevent one from maintaining a level of excellence as a National Hockey League goaltender.
Just don't tell that to Josh Harding.
"You can let it get you down for a bit, but you've got to move past it. I know what my overall goal is to be, and that's a No. 1 goalie of the Minnesota Wild and to win a Stanley Cup here. It would make me happy to overcome this. Not just overcome this, but to really succeed with it," he told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, who broke the story on Wednesday night.
"I don't want people treating me different, I don't want people feeling bad for me, I don't want people moping around. I want this to be a story where when we look back, it was a happy story."
According to the Star Tribune, Harding went to Wild doctor Dan Peterson complaining about dizziness, vision problems and numbness in his leg. After an MRI of this brain revealed lesions, the diagnosis was MS. It's an incurable disease but a treatable one with various drugs. (And medical marijuana; what do you say, NHL: free pass on the drug testing?)
Harding signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal in June with the Wild. He and his fiance are expecting their first child.
After a month dealing with the issue privately with his family, Harding revealed the condition to Wild management and his teammates this week, many of whom had been practicing with Harding during the NHL lockout.
"I wanted to be the one to tell them," Harding said. "And this will tell you what type of people these guys are. I didn't know what to expect, how they'd react, if they'd be like, 'What am I going to do? We're going to have to get another goalie.'
"But not once did either talk about hockey. They were worried about my health. I don't know. It was a really good feeling getting off the phone with both of them. When your GM and coach don't look at the hockey side and are like, 'Anything you need, just call,' it was an awesome feeling."
We've been Harding supporters for years.
His heartfelt and hilarious mask designs were endearing. We believed that he deserved a shot at being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. (We even created a #FreeJoshHarding hashtag to that end.) But Harding was steadfastly loyal to the franchise that drafted him in 2002. It wasn't enough to be a starting goalie in the NHL; he wanted to be the starting goalie for the Minnesota Wild.
Now he faces a hell of a challenge. Well, faces another one, to be accurate — this is a player that tore his ACL/MCL in Sept. 2010, missing an entire season before returning to post impressive numbers as Niklas Backstrom's backup in 2011-12.
So we're not ones to underestimate Josh Harding. Not with his determination. Not with his spirit. Not when he clearly sees himself as someone who might inspire other athletes diagnosed with MS.
At the very least, he should start planning his trip to Vegas to collect the Bill Masterton Trophy at the NHL Awards. Whenever they get around to having them again.