PHT’s Top 13 of ’13: Harding thrives in face of adversity

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In November of last year, Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that can disable the central nervous system of the body causing mild symptoms like numbness in the extremities or severe ones such as paralysis or loss of vision.

Despite being handed such a devastating diagnosis at a young age, the 29-year-old Harding is fighting through it, inspiring sports fans and fellow sufferers of the disease at the same time.

In his first start following his diagnosis, he shut out the Dallas Stars. While he suffered a pair of setbacks while undergoing treatment, including a stint that kept him out for nearly three months, he returned in late April.

His return came just in time to start in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks in place of injured starter Niklas Backstrom. The Wild lost in five games to the ‘Hawks, but Harding built off that experience in a big way.

Overcoming MS to play at all helped earn Harding the 2013 Masterton Trophy for perseverance. He followed that up with the creation of a charity, Harding’s Hope, to help those with the disease.

And he didn’t stop there; his play to start the current season has people thinking he could win a different award: the Vezina Trophy.

With Backstrom again dealing with injuries to start the 2013-14 campaign, Harding seized his opportunity to play and has dazzled throughout the year, going 18-5-3 with a league-leading 1.55 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

The Wild are challenging for a playoff spot in the incredibly difficult Western Conference and have Harding to thank for a lot of their success.

Dealing with MS has its pitfalls, however, because it never goes away. He was put on injured reserve on Dec. 19 to undergo a change in treatment of the disease. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher says it’s not a major situation, but it’s a reason to be concerned nonetheless.

Dealing with an incurable disease like MS is difficult regardless of a person’s situation. Watching Harding excel through it all has been incredible to witness.