Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding is about to begin the fight of his life.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reported Wednesday night that Harding has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable autoimmune disease in which the body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of his nerves and causes them to scar. It results in problems with balance, fatigue and blurred vision.
Harding received the news approximately a month ago and has begun the process of informing friends and family, including Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo. Harding told the newspaper he has no plans of retiring.
"I had a couple days where I felt bad for myself, but no more," Harding told Russo. "There's things in life that happen. Sometimes you can't explain it. You deal with it."
Fletcher said, "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."
Harding began to feel something was wrong in September, when he was experiencing problems with his neck. An MRI exam revealed lesions on his brain, which led to the diagnosis. According to Russo, Harding has been put on an aggressive treatment of medication in order to prevent new lesions and the resulting episodes of "immune system flareup."
Harding, 28, has played parts of six seasons with the Wild, who selected him in the second round (No. 38) of the 2002 NHL Draft. The Regina, Saskatchewan, native set career highs in 2011-12 in games played (34), wins (13) and saves (900).
He has 41 wins, a .916 save percentage and a 2.65 goals-against average in 117 career NHL appearances and was rewarded with a new three-year contract this summer.
There are 25,000 cases of multiple sclerosis diagnosed in the United States every year.
"I don't look at this like I've got to take a new path," Harding said. "This is a little bump in the road. I've had lots in life."