When the NHL announced its yearly award winners last week, you’d have to look long and hard to find someone shocked former Regina Pats, now Minnesota Wild, goaltender Josh Harding received the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the NHL Player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." In Harding’s case, that meant bouncing back from being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November and giving the Wild a chance to win in their Stanley Cup Playoff series against Chicago when starter Niklas Backstrom went down with an injury in warm-ups before Game One.
“My mind was clear, I was ready to go,” explained Harding as he looked back on the series. “It was obviously an unexpected turn of events, but I thought I prepared myself well and I did whatever it took to give the team a chance to win.”
Harding’s return to the NHL came earlier in the season in about as impressive fashion as one could expect from any goaltender stepping in. Just a couple months after his diagnosis, the Regina product shut out the Dallas Stars, stopping 24 shots, in a 1-0 Minnesota win. With the shortened season, Harding was utilized sparingly down the stretch, playing in four contests the rest of the way before his stellar run in the playoffs.
“It was a huge accomplishment for myself and I’m glad the team realized how hard I was trying to get back, obviously with a couple of complications,” said Harding of being the Wild nominee for the Masterton Trophy. “They've had my back from the very beginning when they first drafted me so I can’t say enough about the Wild organization.”
“(My teammates) treated me just like they did before my diagnosis and that’s what I wanted. I didn't want to be treated differently and they were awesome, again, I can’t say enough about the organization and my teammates. I’m proud to be a part of this team.”
While Harding admits winning the Masterton Trophy is an honour for himself, he hopes the attention from the award and his story goes towards raising MS awareness.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to have won that award and more than anything, I hope it brings awareness to MS,” commented the former Pat. “I’m hoping people can look at my story and use it as whatever positive they can. For myself, I have an obligation to my team to make sure I’m ready. I’m not the kind of guy to sit down and feel sorry for myself. I have to get up and get going, I’m hoping people take the positives out of that and if it does help them… that would be great.”
|Jordan Eberle and Mike Sillinger|
in their Harding's Hope t-shirts
Harding isn't stopping at being a positive story for those dealing with MS in their life. He’s taking action in the form of spearheading a new charity by the name of “Harding’s Hope”.
“We are going to help people with MS. I've lived this, I’m passionate about it, I know what goes into having this diagnosis and how expensive the treatments are in the U.S.A and how limited the places are in Canada to get treatment. We’re going to try to help out as much as we can.”
Harding’s Hope already has a strong foothold, and that was evident at the annual Sticks on Rose Tournament in Regina where celebrity players donned Harding’s Hope shirts in support of the charity.
“We’re going to set the bar high and hopefully get there. The support and outreach has been amazing and I can’t say enough about the people who want to get involved with MS and the awareness we’re going to get out there as well.”
For more information on Harding’s Hope, visit hardingshope.org and follow @HardingsHope on Twitter.