Harding Retirement Tops Goalie News from Wild
A report from Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune today indicates that Josh Harding, who has been with the Minnesota Wild organization since they drafted him in 2002, is going to announce his retirement some time this offseason.
Harding was diagnosed in 2012 with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and disrupts the way that nerves send signals to the body, but he continued to play until earlier this season. Sent to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa before the start of this year, Harding played only 2 games there.
Harding won a Masterton Trophy in 2013 in recognition of his dedication to the sport.
In the wake of Harding’s diagnosis, InGoal discussed the impact of MS with Jordan Sigalet, who had been diagnosed in 2004.
“The MS diagnosis overshadowed who I was as a person, as a goalie, which was hard at times, not so much now but especially when I was playing,” he said. “You could have a Barry Brust shutout streak going and they are only going to talk about your MS. That was hard to hear. But then I started to look at it like anyone who is going to read that might look a little more into what MS is and maybe start supporting the cause. Every time someone wrote about the diagnosis, it did create some awareness, or maybe when someone else was diagnosed they weren’t in the dark.”
It would have made it easier for Sigalet when he was first diagnosed to have a puck-stopping peer, or even another professional athlete, to relate and talk to. Now maybe he can be that person for Harding.
“I played for five years after being diagnosed and my diagnosis had nothing to do with me retiring,” Sigalet said. “One of the biggest symptoms of MS is fatigue, so getting your rest when you need it is important, and as a pro hockey player obviously you take pretty good care of your body as it is and live a pretty healthy lifestyle. So he’s got that to his advantage and a postive attitude on top of that. I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Harding’s impending retirement is just one dimension to the Wild’s goaltending situation this offseason.
Also expected not to return is long-time Wild starter Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom, 37, has one more year on his contract with the Wild, but he played only 19 games this season before being displaced by Darcy Kuemper and Devan Dubnyk. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher has indicated that he would like to stick with Dubnyk going forward and perhaps keep Kuemper as the backup.
This leaves Backstrom as the odd man out. Speculation remains that Fletcher will attempt to trade Backstrom and may consider buying out the final year of his contract if a trade partner cannot be found.