TRUE HEROES THAT DRIVE US TO BE GREAT
“You’ve got to make the best of every scenario.” [Josh Harding, Goalie, Minnesota Wild]
Easy words to say. Maybe even watered down a bit by the fact that this statement has become a go-to cliché of parents everywhere. But what if you really, truly embraced this statement? What if you lived this every day, digging down deep and holding onto it even through the toughest of days? It’s one thing to say this, but it’s a whole other ball game to actually believe it yourself. So many of us, myself included, might hand out this advice to others and yet at the same time may forget its true meaning when we’re faced with bad news, when the odds are stacked against us or even when our bodies betray us.
Not Josh Harding. When Josh Harding says this, he means every word of it. He has lived it, time and time again. He is truly a living, breathing, hard-working embodiment of “making the best of every scenario.” From the pursuit of a professional hockey dream to the battle against his health, Harding makes the most of every opportunity he encounters regardless of whether it comes after a setback or before a breakthrough.
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2002 NHL Draft, but sent to play for four years seasons in junior/developmental leagues first? Harding never let his expectations keep him from hard work and dedication. He decided to make the best of it and he went on to win the MVP and Goaltender of the Year in the WHL and was selected as an AHL All-Star. He even earned a three-game professional debut with the Wild starting on March 8, 2006.
Demoted back to the “minors” after posting a 2-1 record over a three game span with the Wild? Again, Harding could have expended energy and time wallowing in his misfortune, but instead he believed in his resiliency and continued to put in maximum effort each day. He made the best of his demotion. He got better day in and day out so that the next time he got called up, he’d be there to stay. And, after getting called back up during the 2006 season, Harding has been in the NHL ever since.
How about a torn right ACL and MCL during a 2010 preseason game that would force him to miss the entire 2010-11 NHL season? Harding played the cards he was dealt. He focused his energy on a speedy and strong recovery so he could once again man the net for the Wild. And with that mindset, he earned back what was abruptly taken from him as the Wild re-signed him in July 2011. In fact, he played so well that season after the injury that the Wild offered him a multi-year, $5.7 million dollar contract. And yet, the setbacks still hadn’t run their course.
In October 2012, Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks parts of the nervous system. Now, it wasn’t just his career or even his dreams that hung in the balance, but his physical health. Forget goaltending, this type of setback could be permanent, emotionally and physical draining, even debilitating. As he later admitted, Harding didn’t sleep that night. He took time to regroup and evaluate all the great things that he had in his life and he made the same decision that he had engrained himself to believe no matter what: he was going to make the best of the scenario. Throughout the NHL Lockout, he trained as hard as he ever had with his teammates so he could be prepared for the season. He reassured his coach (Mike Yeo) and his general manager (Chuck Fletcher) that he’d be the same Harding they knew before. He even required his goalie coach to push and challenge him every day just as he would have in seasons past. And do you know what happened when the Wild started the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season against the Dallas Stars? With Harding minding the net, the Wild shutout the Stars 1-0. As he always had, Josh Harding looked past life’s setbacks and concentrated on movement forward so that he could not just make the best of each scenario, but make the best out of his life. This is why Josh Harding should be on the top of our minds when we’re looking for inspiration to overcome obstacles, big or small.
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