By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - As the Minnesota Wild prepared for the NHL lockout to officially end last fall, most of the team's players had their minds firmly fixed on getting in shape and preparing for the expedited season that sat before them. At the same time, Minnesota goalie Josh Harding had a little bit more on his mind.
Diagnosed last fall with Multiple Sclerosis, Josh Harding vowed to his teammates, to his fans and to himself that he was not going to let the prognosis of a debilitating disease end a career that only a year ago appeared to be heading towards it's prime. Six months later, Harding found himself stuck between the pipes starting the first game of the Minnesota Wild's opening round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While the Wild's quest for the cup has officially come to an end, Harding's journey towards winning one of the NHL's prestigious postseason awards is still alive and kicking.
Tuesday morning the National hockey League announced that Harding had been named as one of the three finalists to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy that honors players who exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Along with Harding, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Boston's Adam McQuaid were named finalists.
Harding, 28 (6/18/84), went 1-1-0 with a 3.24 goals-against average (GAA), a .863 save percentage (SV%) and one shutout in five regular season games with Minnesota this year and 1-4 with a 2.94 GAA and a .911 SV% in five playoff starts for the Wild. He stopped all 24 shots faced in his first start this season in a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 20. Harding was placed on Injured Reserved Feb. 12 and missed 33 games with the Wild as he battles multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed last fall. He was assigned to the Houston Aeros (AHL) on a conditioning assignment April 16 and went 1-1-0, stopping 56-of-61 shots for a 3.00 GAA and .918 SV% in two starts and helped Houston clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs before being recalled by Minnesota on April 22.
Harding went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 GAA, a .917 SV% and two shutouts in 34 appearances (30 starts) in 2011-12 after missing the 2010-11 season with a knee injury suffered Sept. 24, 2010, at St. Louis. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound native of Regina, Sask., has appeared in 122 games (98 starts) with Minnesota in parts of seven NHL seasons, going 42-52-8 with a 2.66 GAA, a .915 SV% and seven shutouts. He was selected by the Wild in the second-round (No. 38 overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) submitted ballots for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The Twin Cities chapter of the PHWA nominated Harding this year. Last year’s winner was Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. The NHL Writers’ Association 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.
The winner will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, with more detail on format to be released at a later date. This marks the first time a member of the Wild has been named a finalist for this award. Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was named a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy on May 7.