Faced with a stiff battle every time he steps foot in front of an NHL net, Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding is up against a much tougher test going forward.
On Wednesday night, Harding revealed to Minnesota Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — an incurable autoimmune disease — but hopes to keep playing hockey.
The ailment, which can cause blurred vision and affect balance and co-ordination, was largely kept a secret by the 28-year-old for over a month, he said, after doctors discovered the disease in late September.
Despite the illness, the goalie is trying not to let his spirits fade.
"I don't look at this like I've got to take a new path," Harding is quoted as saying. "This is a little bump in the road. I've had lots in life."
The native of Regina, Sask., inked a new three-year, $5.7 million US deal over the summer that keeps him in Minnesota through 2015. He's spent his entire career with the Wild after being drafted by the club in the second round (38th overall) in 2002.
He also doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him.
"You can let it get you down for a bit, but you've got to move past it," he told Russo. "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.
"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."
In 34 games last year, Harding went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 goals-against average and two shutouts. In 117 career contests, he's 41-51-8 with a 2.65 GAA and a .916 save percentage to go along with six shutouts.