Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Harding grateful to doctors, Wild for support after MS diagnosis

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: November 28, 2012 - 10:04 PM

When Wild goalie Josh Harding was first officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last month (read the Star Tribune’s story that will be in Thursday’s newspaper here), “I didn’t know anything about MS. I wish I did. Everybody hears about it, but nobody knows much about it unless you’re affected by it.”

 
That’s why Harding is so grateful to Wild doctor Dan Peterson and neurologist Jonathan Calkwood of the Schapiro Center for Multiple Sclerosis and the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology.
 
“I just can’t tell you how much both these doctors have gone above and beyond for me,” Harding said. “There’s no cure for it. It’ll be here the rest of my life. It’s something I’ve already accepted.”
 
Besides being provided with the basic education of the disease, Harding says Peterson is constantly a phone call away and “is just a great, great man” and that Calkwood has spent hours counseling him through every detail of treatment.
 
“There’s so much for myself to learn about MS,” Harding said. “I’ve already learned a lot, but there’s so much I want to learn.”
 
On Wednesday, Harding also made the difficult phone calls to inform Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo what he’s going through.
 
“I wanted to be the one to tell them,” Harding said. “And this will tell you what type of people these guys are. I didn’t know what to expect, how they’d react, if they’d be like, ‘What am I going to do? We’re going to have to get another goalie.’
 
“But not once did either talk about hockey. They were worried about my health. I don’t know. It was a really good feeling getting off the phone with both of them. When your GM and coach don’t look at the hockey side and are like, ‘Anything you need, just call,’ it was an awesome feeling.”
 
Fletcher said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh and his family following the news that he has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Josh’s competitive fire has led him to a successful career in the NHL and we know he will approach this new battle in the same manner.”
  
MS is “life changing,” Harding said, but he is thankful to his fiancee, Sara, who has been a rock at his side during episodes of fatigue and other symptoms. In fact, Sara is pregnant, meaning Josh is about to become a father for the first time.
 
“She knows I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me, and she’s kept strong,” Harding said. “I don’t know if she goes in the bathroom and cries or whatever, but she’s been amazing and if there’s anybody this has been toughest on, it’s Sara.”
 
He said his mom, Eileen, dad, Tim, sisters, Stephanie and Becky, his agent, Craig Oster, and Sara’s parents have been “amazing” throughout with their support.
 
Harding said a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders Wednesday when he spent morning to night calling friends because he didn’t want them to find out of his diagnosis in Thursday’s Star Tribune.
 
He said when he was first diagnosed, he didn’t know if he should tell anybody. Then when he’d be in conversations with friends, whether he should tell them would be running through his head, and essentially, he didn’t act like himself for weeks.
 
He had been skating with fellow locked-out players here in town. Suddenly, he disappeared for no reason for six weeks. I had gotten an inkling that he had a neck injury, but he had been seen out in public, like Timberwolves games, so I didn’t bother him. That’s what his teammates were told, too.
 
“But to miss six weeks with a neck injury, I don’t know if any of the boys bought it,” Harding said.
 
Suddenly after being cleared two weeks ago, he returned to Mariucci for skates. But he would leave the ice with no reason after 45 minutes because he didn’t want to push it. Teammates knew something was up and said, “I don’t know what’s going on, but at least you’re OK.”
 
On Wednesday, Harding began to call those teammates. Cal Clutterbuck even said to him, “We knew something was up. We just didn’t know what.”
 
Harding talked to buddies like Niklas Backstrom, Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe, Tom Gilbert, Mikko Koivu.
 
Remember, Harding’s been in the Wild organization his entire pro career. Drafted in 2002, this is a guy who actually played in Houston during the last lockout with Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux. He signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal this past summer to stay here in Minnesota.
 
“I needed to call these guys and let them hear this from me,” Harding said. “They’re my family. People are a little worried, but once I explain everything, everybody has been incredible.
 
“I tried to hide it for this long and that was tough enough. It’s time to let everybody know and get it out, but I wanted to get back on the ice and make sure I was good first. I’m happy with the direction I’m going. But there’s still a mental game. You let a goal in and you wonder, ‘Would I have let that in eight months ago?’”
 
As I mentioned in the story, Harding got a huge emotional lift when teammates who still didn’t know what Harding had been dealing with were amazed that after six weeks off, he didn’t miss a beat.
 
Now he wants to tell his story to 1) get it out so it’s a distraction right now rather than if the season starts and it gets out then; 2) tell everybody that he will not allow MS end his career; 3) be a positive example for those afflicted with MS.
 
Dr. Peterson says there are 25,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. every year. MS usually hits people between ages 18-40, more women than men. The cause of MS is not known, but some say it’s genetics, some say it’s activated from virus, Peterson says.
 
Harding does have an uncle with MS.
 
“Thirty percent have a second episode in a year, 20 percent may take 2-5 years. It bodes well that we got on it right away before he got into a cycle of getting run down or his immune system flaring up. Maybe he never has another episode.”
 
Doctors are treating Harding’s case real aggressively with medication in an attempt to make sure no new lesions develop.
 
There is “no doubt” in Harding’s mind he can play hockey despite MS.
 
“The way I feel right now, my attitude, the pressure I put on myself to succeed, the support group I have with my awesome doctors and my incredible family, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Harding said.
 
“Nobody thought I’d come back from a torn ACL and MCL as a goalie. I feel good out there. I feel I can compete. I feel like I’m seeing the puck good. Craig [Oster] even said, with the knee, I was farther behind. That was nine, 10 months. This is five, six weeks, and now I’m back at it. I’m way ahead.”
 
WHAT IS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
 
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially debilitating disease in which your body's immune system eats away at the protective sheath that covers your nerves. This interferes with the communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Ultimately, this may result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that's not reversible.

Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and which nerves are affected. People with severe cases of multiple sclerosis may lose the ability to walk or speak. Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease because symptoms often come and go — sometimes disappearing for months.

There's no cure for multiple sclerosis. However treatments can help treat attacks, modify the course of the disease and treat symptoms.

MAYOCLINIC.com
 
------------------------
 
Also, in Wild news, defenseman Clayton Stoner has signed with Banska Bystrica in Slovakia. He leaves Thursday. He becomes the third Wild locked-out player playing elsewhere and my suspicion is there will soon be more. Jared Spurgeon is playing for the SCL Tigers in Switzerland and Devin Setoguchi is playing for the Ontario Reign in California.
 
Mikko Koivu is back in the States after a short stint with Turku in Finland. He's in Anaheim on vacation right now.

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 2 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Washington 9 FINAL
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 FINAL
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 1
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 5
Detroit - LP: J. Mantiply 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 5
Cincinnati 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Los Angeles 10 FINAL
Milwaukee 1
San Francisco 12 FINAL
Texas 3
Chicago WSox 0 FINAL
San Diego 5
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Cleveland 9
Seattle 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 7
Colorado 0 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 7 FINAL
Arizona 2
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Chicago 84 FINAL
Indiana 98
Sacramento 114 FINAL
Orlando 119
Utah 89 FINAL
Philadelphia 83
Miami 97 FINAL
Washington 99
Toronto 94 FINAL
Charlotte 103
Cleveland 97 FINAL
Atlanta 106
Boston 104 FINAL
New Orleans 98
Detroit 93 FINAL
Houston 103
LA Lakers 90 FINAL
Memphis 97
Phoenix 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 100
Denver 111 FINAL
San Antonio 120
Dallas 52 3rd Qtr 6:17
Golden State 68
Columbus 3 FINAL
New Jersey 2
Minnesota 3 FINAL
Carolina 1
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Calgary 5 FINAL
Detroit 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL(SO)
Chicago 2
Pittsburgh 4 3rd Prd 11:44
Anaheim 0
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 67 FINAL
Radford 66
Evansville 67 FINAL
Illinois State 71
Towson 69 FINAL
Elon 74
Gardner-Webb 72 FINAL
High Point 71
Samford 76 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Northern Ill 71 FINAL
Ball State 67
Bowling Green 75 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Brown 69 FINAL
Dartmouth 75
Toledo 59 FINAL
Eastern Mich 85
Akron 77 FINAL
Kent State 79
Ill-Chicago 72 FINAL
Oakland 69
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Ohio 95
Columbia 46 FINAL
Penn 54
Cornell 53 FINAL
Princeton 66
Central Mich 62 FINAL
Western Mich 74
Bradley 46 FINAL
Northern Iowa 71
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Murray State 80
Yale 62 FINAL
Harvard 52
Furman 73 FINAL
Citadel 56
Coll of Charleston 56 FINAL
Drexel 48
UNC-Asheville 57 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 74
Texas Tech 74 FINAL
Baylor 77
Pacific 58 FINAL
San Francisco 62
Loyola-Chicago 81 FINAL
Indiana State 53
Detroit 53 FINAL
Cleveland State 70
Belmont 53 FINAL
Eastern Ky 52
Loyola Marymount 18 1st Half 3:32
Santa Clara 29
Chicago 0 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Richmond 45 FINAL
Fordham 46
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Siena 61 FINAL
Iona 71
Washington St 48 FINAL
(9) Arizona State 67
Ark-Pine Bluff 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 51
(23) Rutgers 57 FINAL
(24) Northwestern 62
Tennessee St 71 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 59
Loyola Marymount 50 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
(18) Texas A&M 65 FINAL
LSU 71
Cincinnati 76 FINAL
UCF 66
Saint Josephs 61 FINAL
Dayton 80
UCLA 62 FINAL
(19) Stanford 67
Santa Clara 42 FINAL
San Diego 51
Virginia Tech 43 FINAL
(7) Florida State 82
SMU 59 FINAL
Memphis 71
Lehigh 75 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Rhode Island 53 FINAL
Duquesne 66
North Florida 35 FINAL
(20) Fla Gulf Coast 74
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
Jacksonville 55
USC Upstate 45 FINAL
Northern Ky 64
Lipscomb 69 FINAL
Stetson 92
Nebraska 65 FINAL
(14) Iowa 74
Saint Peters 57 FINAL
Marist 62
Navy 60 FINAL
Bucknell 49
Lafayette 56 FINAL
American Univ 79
Colgate 45 FINAL
Army 48
Georgia 41 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 75
Dartmouth 71 FINAL
Brown 53
Penn 50 FINAL
Columbia 36
(13) Princeton 70 FINAL
Cornell 37
Kansas 49 FINAL
Kansas State 57
Harvard 68 FINAL
Yale 63
(15) North Carolina 75 FINAL
(10) Louisville 77
San Jose St 99 FINAL
UNLV 97
Houston 39 FINAL
Tulane 64
Utah State 58 FINAL
Colorado State 76
Colorado 68 FINAL
(8) Oregon State 65
New Mexico 66 FINAL
Wyoming 55
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Ohio State 83
(12) Kentucky 76 FINAL
(11) Miss State 67
San Diego State 44 FINAL
Nevada 50
Niagara 57 FINAL
Fairfield 65
Texas Tech 40 FINAL
West Virginia 59
Boise State 52 1st OT 2:36
Fresno State 52
Washington 21 1st Half 4:26
California 29
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT