Last fall, Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding received a life-altering diagnosis not usually seen among professional sports athletes. The 29-year-old goaltender from Regina, Saskatchewan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease which hinders the central nervous system with no known cure.
After receiving the MS diagnosis during the lockout that delayed the start of the NHL season until January, Harding was able to make five appearances as the backup to starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Inspired by his ability to persevere through a disease widely associated with limiting physical capabilities, Harding has started a charity, called Harding’s Hope, to help rewrite the public image of those living with MS.
“There is a poor perception of people diagnosed with MS. People immediately think wheelchair and death,” said Josh Harding, who is grateful for the extraordinary help and support he has received from his doctor and medical team. “I want to be a role model for others diagnosed with MS by showing that this will not come between me and my goals.”
For his efforts during the 2013 season following his diagnosis, Harding was awarded the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Bill Masterton, a former Minnesota North Stars player, died after suffering an injury on the ice. The Masterton Trophy is given annually to a player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”.
Harding’s Hope will contribute to existing charities helping individuals with MS, both in the United States and Harding’s native country of Canada. It truly is amazing to see players find ways to use their professional status for the benefit of others.
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[H/T Pro Hockey Talk]