Earlier this year Bryan Bickell was diagnosed with MS. The news came as a shock to everyone who followed Bickell during his NHL career. He been such a playoff performer for the Blackhawks in two consecutive seasons, then his production took a nose dive. I was very critical of Bickell in his last season with the Blackhawks, and I felt awful after the news broke about his condition. The condition, however, did not stop Bickell, who vowed to return to the NHL this season.
Former NHL Goalie’s Advice
He would seek out another former NHL player who battled MS for advice. Bickell reached out to former Minnesota Wild Goalie Josh Harding. Harding has been through what Bickell is currently experiencing, with Harding being diagnosed in 2012 with MS.
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In 2012, Harding was forced into action for the Wild in the NHL playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. Bickell would help the Hawks defeat the Wild by scoring the Game Winner in Game 1 of that series. That would be Bickell’s first goal in the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship run. He would finish that playoff run with 9 goals and 8 assists. Harding would continue his battle MS and try to play hockey. He would have some succcess. In 2013, he lead the league in shutouts and looked to a promising goalie. He was viewed by many as one of the best goalies in the league After a medication issue, He would never be the same. Harding would be forced to retire in 2015.
The Start of the Return: Charlotte Checkers
People hope Bickell learns from Harding experience and has more success than Harding did. Last month, Bickell started practicing with the Carolina Hurricanes to begin his return to the NHL.
As of Friday, Bickell was assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. He appeared in his first AHL game since his diagnosis back in October. He appeared in a 6-1 victory over the Cleveland on Saturday night. He did record an assist to put the team 5-0 late in the second period. Bickell was quoted on saying it “a rough one to jump back in and play at a high pace.” He would only play 10 minutes for the team and hopes to have minutes increase over time.
This was the second major hurdle for Bickell return to the NHL. It could take him sometime before he returns to the NHL or he may never return.
Bickell can count on one thing for sure, I will be pulling for him.