Ex-goalie with MS offers hope Harding can play

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSOMRUSSO@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: November 30, 2012 - 11:48 AM

Jordan Sigalet, who has multiple sclerosis, said he will tell the Wild goalie Josh Harding to pursue his dreams.

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Jordan Sigalet, in 2004.

Photo: Jeremy Wadsworth, Dml - Associated Press

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Josh Harding's phone was blowing up Thursday. He could hardly take a breath one day after revealing that he plans to continue his NHL career despite recently being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

But the Wild goaltender made sure to reach out via text to Jordan Sigalet, the goaltending coach of the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat. The two plan to talk Friday.

Sigalet is 31, has had MS since 2004, played with it for five years -- three professionally -- and has no doubt Harding can do the same.

"My retirement had nothing to do with my MS," said Sigalet, who played three years for the Providence Bruins, "a whole 43 seconds" for the Boston Bruins and was a Hobey Baker finalist at Bowling Green the year after being diagnosed with MS. "I could have kept playing but decided to move on and get into the coaching side of things."

In Sigalet's junior year at Bowling Green, he had just finished playing weekend games against Northern Michigan.

"I woke up Sunday morning with numbness in my right foot," Sigalet said. "I didn't think anything of it. I thought I slept on it funny, but the pins and needles didn't go away all day. I woke up Monday, I had numbness from my chest down."

Sigalet called the team doctor, who found lesions on his brain and spine.

"You're in denial right away," he said. "You think it must be a misdiagnosis because you're 23. ... I didn't tell anyone for six months, so I can relate to why Josh waited [several weeks] to tell people. You're scared. You don't know what Minnesota will think. I thought if Boston found out, they'd drop me and sweep me under the rug. But going public was the best thing I ever did. The support was unreal."

Some people, though, told Sigalet there was no way he could play with MS, but he returned for his senior season and went 16-12-3 for the Falcons with a 2.89 goals-against average.

He signed three one-year deals with the Bruins in case his health deteriorated. He played 81 games for Providence and backed up 10 games for Boston. And on Jan. 7, 2006, Sigalet played his only NHL game after Andrew Raycroft sprained an ankle late in a 6-3 victory over Tampa Bay.

"I was cold as can be, my heart racing," Sigalet said. "I didn't see a shot, but I was out there in an NHL game after being told years earlier I wouldn't play hockey again. To me, it's the coolest thing in the world.

"Looking back now, if I just packed it in, I would have had a lot of regrets. If I tried and failed, at least I could have lived with that."

Harding vows to not just overcome MS, but to succeed with it. Sigalet says it can be done.

"The disease is different with everybody," he said. "You don't really know what tomorrow [or] a week holds. It sounds cliché to live one day at a time, but that's what you have to do with this disease. You don't know what course it's going to take until you've had it for three, four, five years.

"But there are so many great treatments, and it sounds like Josh has a great support system and a great attitude."

Asked what he planned to tell Harding, Sigalet said, "There are so many different diseases out there, and this is one you can definitely manage. You can live a normal life. You can't give up on your dreams. People are going to tell you what you can and can't do, but only you know yourself. You can do this."

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