Return trip has better ending for Harding

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Josh Harding's last trip to Calgary didn't have the happy ending he wanted.

The Minnesota Wild's rookie netminder fared well in relief of Niklas Backstrom, who tweaked his groin in the first period but Harding took the loss against the Flames in a shootout.

Last night, the Regina, Sask., product who wears a mask painted with pink ribbons didn't play but he had plenty to celebrate.

Harding received good news from his sister Stephanie Le Bruno, 26, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November.

He got it in person when she arrived in Calgary late Friday night to visit her little brother.

"She's come a long way. She had surgery and they gave her the results back and I think they got all the cancer out," said the 22-year-old Harding, excited to have the opportunity to visit with his parents and sisters who made the trip from Saskatchewan. "It was a pretty happy day."

After the morning skate, Harding planned to spend a little more time with the sister who inspired a unique design for his mask.

His folks, both older sisters and a nephew he's seen only once are staying a floor below him at the hotel.

"We're going to go for a bit to eat and try and celebrate a little bit," Harding said before hopping in the shower to get ready.

In a profession full of tough guys, Harding has no problem putting on a predominantly pink helmet every time he suits up.

The front is adorned with six pink ribbons and the words 'Fund The Fight' and 'Find A Cure' on both sides.

On the back is a digital replica of a ribbon-wearing angel broach Stephanie wears to every doctor's appointment, as well as her initials.

"Every time I put it on, I know that and I think of her," said Harding.

"I just wanted to do something to get back and show her she means a lot to me and raise a little money for the breast cancer foundation here in Canada, a good cause."

Harding's efforts for the cause don't stop with the paint job. He's also set up his own website -- www.fundthefight.com -- and is collecting items from around the league to auction off.

"The helmet is going to go on, I think Roberto Luongo's stick is on there right now," said Harding.

"Hopefully it can raise a lot of money."

The goaltender spent much of the season in Houston with the American Hockey League Aeros until Wild starter Manny Fernandez went down with a serious knee injury in January. With the NHL promotion, he used the bigger stage to promote awareness by asking graphic artist Todd Miska for the design.

But Harding wasn't the only player sporting pink last night. Many players used pink sticks during the pre-game warmup as part of a month-long NHL campaign for breast cancer.

"I can't say enough about the people that are using them," Harding said. "And the league for doing the job."

Seeing his sister in person, though, made it a perfect night.

"It's perfect. In Minnesota, you can't really do too much," he said. "Seeing her, giving her a big hug and knowing that she's OK and she's there means a lot to me."


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