Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a secret he kept for over a month.
"I didn't know anything about MS. I wish I did. Everybody hears about it, but nobody knows much about it unless you're affected by it," the 28-year-old told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Multiple sclerosis is an incurable autoimmune disease. It causes the body to attack the protective lining of nerve cells, affecting how the brain and spinal cord communicate. It leaves the body open to almost any neurological symptom, including difficulty moving, difficulty with balance, problems with speech and vision problems.
Harding was diagnosed in October but kept it private save for his immediate family. Wednesday, he began telling friends and teammates. He also called Wild head coach Mike Yeo and general manager Chuck Fletcher.
"I wanted to be the one to tell them," Harding said. "And this will tell you what type of people these guys are. I didn't know what to expect, how they'd react, if they'd be like, 'What am I going to do? We're going to have to get another goalie.' But not once did either talk about hockey. They were worried about my health."
Harding has been put on an aggressive treatment of medication to battle the disease. The Regina, Sask., native intends to continue his career.
"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," Fletcher said.
"I don't look at this like I've got to take a new path," said Harding. "This is a little bump in the road. I've had lots in life."
Harding was drafted 38th overall by the Wild in 2002. He signed a three-year, $5.7-million contract over the summer after putting up a respectable 13-12 record with a 2.62 goals-against average and .917 save percentage last season.