Masterton Trophy in tow, Wild's Harding has big plans

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2013 - 12:26 AM

The Wild’s backup goaltender is launching a new charity and vows that MS is not going to keep him from playing in the NHL.

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Josh Harding stops a shot by Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane during the second period of Game 1 of an NHL Stanley Cup playoff series

Photo: Jim Prisching, Associated Press

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Josh Harding was humbled by being named the NHL’s 2013 recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, and the Wild goaltender already is organizing ways to give back.

In conjunction with Friday’s announcement, Harding launched the website for Harding’s Hope (hardingshope.org) — his new charity he hopes brings awareness to and benefits those afflicted with multiple sclerosis.

Harding’s life was turned upside down last fall when he was diagnosed with MS. But the 28-year-old refused to let the debilitating autoimmune disease end his hockey career.

“I just won an NHL award. It’s something that I never thought I’d do in my life ever. And it happened with MS,” Harding said. “I played five playoff games. I didn’t know if I’d ever play a playoff game. And that came with MS.

“I want people to believe that goals are possible. Just because you get the label of a disease doesn’t mean you’re not going to complete your goals. That’s what I hope ­people take out of this.”

Harding, drafted in the second round in 2002, is the first Wild player to ever win a voted-on, end-of-the-year NHL award. The Masterton 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.

“There were some ups and downs,” Harding said. “Some days it would have been easy to throw in the towel. … But I’ve been playing hockey since I was 4. I’m not going to let something come in the way.”

Harding missed two months last season after complications from a medication to treat his MS. But he returned in April and wound up starting each game of the Wild’s first-round series with Chicago after Niklas Backstrom suffered a sports hernia minutes before Game 1.

“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 major NHL awards will be revealed Saturday, including the Norris Trophy. While the Wild’s Ryan Suter is a finalist, Montreal’s P.K. Subban has won the hardware.

Going to Sweden

The Wild’s Jonas Brodin is one of 13 defensemen who have been invited to Sweden’s Olympic camp Aug. 12-14 in Stockholm. Paired with Suter, Brodin, 19, who won gold at the world junior championships in 2012, led all NHL rookies in average ice time (23 minutes, 12 seconds a game) last season.

While it’s not yet official that NHLers will partake in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, an announcement should come soon.

Free-agent talks

The Wild has begun contract talks with Backstrom, a potential unrestricted free agent, and has had preliminary discussions with potential restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon. It’s clear the club is in a standstill until it secures a No. 1 goaltender, whether that be re-signing Backstrom or potentially making a trade.

The Wild currently has about $7.6 million in cap space for next season.

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