Wild goaltender Josh Harding has won the Masterton Trophy.
Harding’s life was turned upside down last fall when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune disease where his body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of his nerves and causes them to scar.
“This is only the beginning of the story,” Harding said. “I’m not going to let this story end right now. … It’s a goal of mine to make sure people know that this isn’t just a one-time thing and I got through the season. Next year I’m expecting big things for myself.”
The honor is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. The trophy is named after former North Star Bill Masterton, who died in 1968 after an on-ice injury.
The other finalists this year were Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Since I began covering the Wild in 2005, our Masterton nominees have been, in order from 2005-06 to 2011-12, Wes Walz, Marian Gaborik, Aaron Voros, Kurtis Foster, Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Clayton Stoner.
Harding is the first Wild player to ever win an end-of-the-year award via vote. Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez did win the Jennings trophy in 2007 for having the lowest goals against in the NHL. Walz was once a finalist for the Selke and Backstrom was once a finalist for the Vezina.
Jacques Lemaire won the Jack Adams for Coach of the Year in 2003.
The other major awards will be revealed Saturday, including the Norris Trophy. While the Wild’s Ryan Suter is a finalist, Montreal’s PK Subban reportedly won the hardware.
Harding, who missed two months last season due to complications with a drug to treat his MS, wound up starting each game in the playoffs after Backstrom sustained a sports hernia minutes before Game 1 against Chicago.
Harding is in the process of starting a charity to benefit MS called “Harding’s Hope.” His web site can be visited at http://www.hardingshope.org/ and it can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HardingsHope.
"Just to help people," Harding said. "I’ve lived it. I’ve seen all the complications and all the battles that you have to go through with this disease. I am very fortunate that I play a professional sport that covers all that stuff behind the scenes, with medications, with doctors. I want to give back, I want to make sure that everybody has that protection."
There will be more from Harding in Saturday's newspaper. There are also a few Wild notes in there, so check that out.
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