Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell, 30, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The shocking announcement of Bickell’s illness was made Friday afternoon by the Hurricanes, and Carolina GM Ron Francis said that the immediate concern is for Bickell to “take care of himself” and added that the organization is thinking of both he and his family.
Francis added that Bickell will be taking time to rest in “the immediate future.” He has been sidelined for the past five games, and the announcement came one day after the Hurricanes ruled him out of Thursday’s game, stating he was only out with an illness.
Bickell said the situation is one he has been dealing with for more than a year.
“Since the 2015 playoffs, I’ve been struggling to understand what was going on with my body. Again during the past few weeks, it felt like something wasn’t right,” said Bickell. “Obviously this is a bit of shock for my family and me, but I am hopeful I will be able to return to the ice and continue playing the game that I love.”
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, multiple sclerosis, also known simply as MS, is “an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord),” and “can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes.” There is no known cause, though it’s believed “lifestyle, environmental, genetic and biological factors all contribute.”
Bickell has suited up in seven games for the Hurricanes this season, scoring one goal and averaging nearly 10 minutes of ice time per game. He hasn’t however, played since Oct. 30 against the Philadelphia Flyers. He skated a mere 5:45 in the outing, and was out of the lineup the following game against the Ottawa Senators.
Bickell became a member of the Hurricanes this season as part of a trade that saw the Chicago Blackhawks package him and Teuvo Teravainen in exchange for two draft picks. Bickell is in the final year of a four-year, $16-million deal he signed with the Blackhawks in July 2013.
Drafted 41st overall in 2004, Bickell has netted 66 goals and 136 points in 391 NHL games, almost all with the Blackhawks. He became a star in the 2012-13 post-season when he netted nine goals and 17 points in 23 games playing alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and his playoff performances in 2013-14 nearly mirrored that of the previous year.
He has scored 20 goals and 39 points in 75 post-season outings, and is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, most recently with the Blackhawks in 2014-15.
When or if Bickell will be able to return is, at this point, unclear. He may be able to draw some inspiration from former Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding, however.
Harding was diagnosed with MS in September 2012, and was back in action by January 2013. Harding was able to play out the remainder of his three-year contract, including 26 starts during the 2013-14 season.
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