Nominees for the Bill Masterton Trophy are National Hockey League players who, “Exemplify perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey.”
In his career, and especially this season, Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding epitomizes these traits. Today he was nominated for Masterton Trophy by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA).
Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last fall, but has battled to continue his NHL career with the Wild. On Feb. 12, after feeling off from medications treating the disease, he was placed on Injured Reserve and missed 33 games as he continued treatment. However, the netminder continued his fight with the disease and, after a two-game conditioning assignment with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, was activated from Injured Reserve on April 22 and returned to the Wild lineup.
“It went a lot better than I thought it would,” Harding said about his return to net in Houston, a 33-save win. While with the Aeros, he went 1-1-0, stopping 56-of-61 shots for a 3.00 goals against average and .918 save percentage in two starts, helping Houston clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs.
The 28-year-old has not only had to deal with the disease impacting his career, but more importantly his long-term health.
“A couple days you wonder: ‘Are things going to get better?’” Harding said a few weeks ago after returning to practice with the Wild. “The scariest thing was when I tried some things that were supposed to help me and they didn’t. That was when it started getting to me and this might be serious. You think about hockey, how your life is going to change…
“The one thing that the doctors have taught me, every case of MS is different; you really don’t have that baseline where you can look at somebody in a similar situation because their MS probably isn’t the same as yours. You have to find what works for you.”
Battling through adversity is nothing new to Harding. Last season, he went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 GAA, a .917 SV% and two shutouts in 34 appearances (30 starts) after missing the entire 2010-11 season with a knee injury suffered Sept. 24, 2010, at St. Louis.
The Regina, Sask., native has appeared in 121 games (98 starts) with Minnesota in parts of seven NHL seasons, going 42-52-8 with a 2.65 GAA, a .915 SV% and seven shutouts. Harding was selected by the Wild in the second-round (No. 38 overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
The winner of the Masterton Trophy is selected by a poll among the 30 chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season. Last year’s winner was Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. NHL writers first presented the trophy in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, who played for the Minnesota North Stars and exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968 as a result of head injuries suffered during a game.
Clayton Stoner (2011-12), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2010-11), Guillaume Latendresse (2009-10), Kurtis Foster (2008-09), Aaron Voros (2007-08), Marian Gaborik (2006-07), Wes Walz (2005-06, 2000-01), Alexandre Daigle (2003-04), Dwayne Roloson (2002-03) and Richard Park (2001-02) were previously nominated for the award.