The Carolina Hurricanes announced Friday that forward Bryan Bickell had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“First and foremost, the most important thing is for Bryan to take care of himself and our thoughts are with him and his family,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “He will need to take some time to rest in the immediate future, and we will support him as he takes the necessary steps for his health. We ask that his privacy be respected during the process.”
Bickell, 30, was traded to the Hurricanes in June by the Chicago Blackhawks after being a part of three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago. He has played in seven games for the Canes this season, scoring a goal Oct. 28 in the home opener against the New York Rangers, but missed the past five games.
“Since the 2015 playoffs, I’ve been struggling to understand what was going on with my body,” Bickell said Friday in a statement. “Again during the past few weeks, it felt like something wasn’t right. 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.”
Bickell missed games for Chicago during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, saying he was experiencing dizziness and vertigo. He split the 2015-16 season between Chicago and the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.
Bickell came to the Canes in the trade that also brought forward Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina as the Blackhawks sought to move the final year of Bickell’s contract to provide salary-cap space. In an interview the day of the trade, Bickell said he had no physical issues and looked forward to being with a new team.
While announcing the Bickell diagnosis, the Canes also said Friday that defenseman Justin Faulk had been placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 7. Faulk, a two-time NHL All-Star, suffered an upper-body injury Nov. 6 in the game against the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena.
In other personnel moves Friday, the Canes assigned forward Phil Di Giuseppe to the Charlotte Checkers, their AHL affiliate, and recalled forwards Brock McGinn and Derek Ryan.
It is uncertain when Bickell would be able to return. Multiple sclerosis is often a disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body, according to the National MS Society. Most people with MS have the disease diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, the MS Society says.
Former Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding was diagnosed with MS in September 2012 and continued to play. He was the recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2013, recognizing his perseverance and dedication to the sport.
Harding’s last NHL season was 2013-14. He established “Harding’s Hope,” a charity to help those with MS pay for their medications.
Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough, in a statement Friday, said: “Our thoughts are with Bryan, his family and the Carolina Hurricanes during this challenging time. He has built so many lasting relationships in Chicago both inside and outside the Blackhawks organization based on his play on the ice and his character off it.”