Harding hits the ice with Wild teammates for first time in weeks

The Wild’s backup goalie has adjusted his treatment for MS and still hopes to contribute this season.

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Wild goalie Josh Harding

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Josh Harding could feel it. And he’s pretty sure those around him could see it, too.

The Wild goalie was struggling. He was scared.

“You think about hockey, and you think about how your life is going to change,” he said.

This, though, is looking back. And that’s something Harding sounds loath to do. He was speaking to a few media members at midday Thursday after having taken to the Xcel Energy Center ice with some teammates for the first time in weeks. It was a small step, but a thrilling one; Harding arrived early, warmed up and waited. And then, getting on the ice?

“It’s a big step for me,” he said. “Hopefully it just keeps going the right way.”

Harding was diagnosed last fall with multiple sclerosis. He and his doctors hoped proper treatment could contain it. But after his body didn’t react well to medication, he was put on injured reserve Feb. 12, then started a weeks-long process trying to find the right treatment combination.

It was not easy.

“It’s frustrating, more than anything,” Harding said. The problem, he said, is that everybody dealing with the disease is different. There is no standard operating procedure.

“The slope I was taking, I could feel it,” Harding said. “I think everybody around me was noticing, too. I was going downhill, and [after] a couple of days you wonder if you’re going to get better. The scariest thing was when I tried some things that were supposed to help me and they didn’t. And that was when it started getting to me, that this might be serious. … That’s why it’s very exciting for myself to feel better this last week and a half. I think we’ve found the right solution.”

Harding and his doctors feel they have a regimen that will work. For the past two weeks Harding has been working out, trying to get stronger and back into shape. For the past 10 days or so, he said he has felt great.

“I think we kind of got it under wraps here,” he said. “Just a little more tweaking. Other than that, I’ve felt good. I’ve been feeling like I have energy, been working out hard, and now skating a couple times. I’m excited. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a good experience.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see Harding in a game any time soon. First he has to get stronger, he has to take part in some practices and see how he reacts. But:

“He’s getting close,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “And that’s a great thing. We’re hoping that this is a great story. I think he looks great. Physically he’s feeling a lot better. We don’t have a time frame, we don’t know what it is. But we’re anxious to get him back, that’s for sure.’’

No more anxious than Harding. But he knows he has to be patient. As good as he feels, he’s skated only twice on his own and taken shots once.

But Harding said he feels the process is in place. His medication is working, he is making sure to keep working out, getting enough rest and eating well.

“Just have to keep going forward,” he said. “The way I’ve been feeling, we’re going to keep pushing it. And, hopefully, get back out there and do whatever I can do to help the team. That’s what I want to do.’’

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