Here’s how it went down. The Stars were buzzing and the Wild were playing their second game in two nights. In this slightly condensed season, backup goaltenders are so important, even to the Minnesota Wild, who have an elite member of the netminding fraternity in Nik Backstrom. Even Atlas eventually shrugged.
So, enough with the metaphors, let’s get back to the story at hand. The Wild gave the back-stopping over to Josh Harding, a career back-up with 118 games under his belt over 7 years, and respectable 2.62 goals against average over that time. The Wild were hardly a dominant force on this night, but riding an early tally from Zach Parise, Harding sparkled in goal, stopping 24 shots on the way to his 7th career shutout and the Wild’s second straight win.
Normally, we in the media would not be making a big deal out of this nearly a week after it all went down. Nearly two months ago, while the NHL and Players Association squabbled over issues that seemed ridiculous, Josh Harding wasn’t doing media scrums over his shutout win. He was announcing that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Here’s the Wikipedia definition of MS:
“Multiple sclerosis (MS), also known as “disseminated sclerosis” or “encephalomyelitis disseminata”, is an inflammatory disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leading to demyelination and scarring as well as a broad spectrum of signs and symptoms.”
The sobering list of symptoms includes loss of sensitivity, fatigue, difficulties with balance and coordination, muscle weakness, chronic pain, and visual problems.
Yeah, really. And there was Josh Harding, performing feats of balance and coordination on the way to carrying a fatigued Wild squad.
Sometime in September, Harding was working out on the ice, and he became dizzy, and his vision was plagued by big, black spots. He also had a neck problem, which is when he turned to doctors to hunt down the problem. He went through a barrage of testing, and the doctors came back with a diagnosis that would have floored the average athlete.
Josh Harding is clearly not an average athlete. His first thought was turned toward being ready when the work stoppage ended. “I’m going to do my part over here, skating regularly, working out regularly, getting back into shape and hopefully be good to go for training camp,” he stated, flatly.
So there he was, standing in net, with a perfect game, and getting congratulated by his teammates, many of whom he worked out with at the informal skates that peppered North America during the 119 day lockout.
Josh Harding will continue to play as long as he can, living like there is no tomorrow, and ready to support his team for as long as he is physically able.
Maybe we can all use a little bit of the moxie Harding has, and continue to chase our dreams.
And that is the last word.