CALGARY -- Jordan Sigalet spent much of Thursday texting back and forth with a man he has never met.
On Wednesday night, Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding let the hockey world know of his recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially devastating autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system.
The news brought the memories flooding back for Sigalet, goaltending coach for the American Hockey League Abbotsford Heat.
In his job, Sigalet is charged with grooming Leland Irving, Barry Brust and Danny Taylor to one day play for the Calgary Flames. But on Thursday, his thoughts centered on the masked man for the Minnesota Wild.
"Obviously, it's horrible news," said Sigalet, 31. "The first thing I wanted to do was to reach out to Josh. I decided to send out my first ever tweet on Twitter last night just to send my thoughts his way.
"He seems like a great guy, and he has the right attitude to come out on top and live a normal life with this disease and still manage a great career ahead of him.
Some well-intended folk suggested Sigalet walk away from hockey in 2004, even though his playing rights belonged to the Boston Bruins.
The nightmare began when Sigalet woke up one morning and couldn't feel his right foot. At 23, in his junior season at Bowling Green State University, Sigalet figured it couldn't be anything serious.
"I didn't really think anything of it," he said. "Sometimes you sleep on a leg or an arm funny, and you wake up with pins and needles.
"The numbness didn`t go away all day. I remember going to bed that night and waking up the next morning and being completely numb and weak from the chest down."
According to an article by Michael Russo in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Harding's trouble began with a tweak in the neck that resulted in dizziness, seeing black spots and numbness in the leg.
Following a similar path to Sigalet, Harding, 28, went through a battery of tests that led to the diagnosis.
Harding, a Regina native, waited a month to tell anyone beyond his inner circle the news. Sigalet took six months before breaking his silence.
Those six months were a nightmare.
"I didn't believe it," Sigalet said. "I thought maybe it was a pinched nerve or slipped disc. So I kept getting other opinions. It was probably the worst thing I did, because it was like being diagnosed over and over.
"It always came back to the conclusion of Multiple Sclerosis. And so once I finally did accept that, that`s when I finally turned the corner."
Like in so many other aspects of life, acceptance proved the key.
"I took on a real positive attitude," he said. "That's when I was going to turn something bad into something good. That`s when I went public with my story."
The Boston Bruins could have dropped Sigalet when he went public. Instead, they threw their full support behind the New Westminster, B.C. native and told him performance -- not words on a medical chart -- would dictate their personnel decisions.
They stuck to their word over the years, signing Sigalet to three separate one-way deals. He played one game for the Bruins in 2005-06 and three seasons for their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence before wrapping up his career in Austria.
"When I was first diagnosed, there were people who told me I wouldn't be able to play again," he said. "I almost started to believe that when I heard that, but I knew I couldn't.
"I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong. I wanted to prove to myself that I could live with this disease - and not only live with it, but play with hockey with it."
That he did.
"I went from hearing I would never play again to stepping on the ice for an NHL game," he said. "Having your childhood dream come true is just an amazing feeling.
"My retirement definitely had nothing to do with the MS. Obviously, it's a lot easier on my body now that I'm done playing. I still miss playing at times, but I'm glad I can live my dream through what I'm doing now and try to help other guys reach their goal of getting to the NHL."
His overall message to Harding and anyone else dealing with the disease?
"My message is always not to give up on your dreams," he said. "Everyone has dreams, big and small. Mine happened to be hockey. But you can't drop what you love to do just because of the diagnosis.
"You might have to make some changes to the way you do those things, but for me, if I just packed it in, when they told me I couldn't play hockey again, I would have had a lot of regrets."
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News