Hockey fan saves team manager’s life by flagging cancerous mole on his neck from audience mid-game

The 22-year-old wrote a message on her phone and pressed it against the plexiglass to gain the staffer’s attention

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 03 January 2022 07:27
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<p>Seattle Kraken fan Nadia Popovici and Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Brian Hamilton greet one another during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on 1 January 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Popovici made headlines by alerting Hamilton at a previous game between the teams on 23 October of a cancerous mole</p>

Seattle Kraken fan Nadia Popovici and Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Brian Hamilton greet one another during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on 1 January 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Popovici made headlines by alerting Hamilton at a previous game between the teams on 23 October of a cancerous mole

During an NHL game in October, a 22-year-old alerted Brian Hamilton, an assistant equipment manager for the Vancouver Canucks, that the mole on his neck could be cancerous. She typed a message on her phone and placed it against the plexiglass to gain Mr Hamilton’s attention.

After the game between the Canucks and the Seattle Kraken at the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington, got over, Nadia Popovici waved several times and when Mr Hamilton finally got her attention, he read out the message she had typed on her phone.

“The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!” the message read. The words “mole,” “cancer” and “doctor” were written in bright red.

Ms Popovici had learned to spot these moles while volunteering at a hospital as a nursing assistant.

On 23 October, after the game finished, Mr Hamilton went home and asked a team doctor if the mole on his neck was worrisome. Turns out, it was.

He got it removed.

On Saturday last week, addressing the media, the Canucks staffer said: “She took me out of a slow fire. And the words out of the doctor’s mouth were if I ignored that for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.”

He added: “I didn’t know it was there, she pointed it out. How she saw it boggles my mind. It wasn’t very big, I wear a jacket, I wear a radio on the back of my jacket… she’s a hero.”

On 1 January, the Vancouver Canucks tweeted out an appeal to find the fan who had pointed out the cancerous mole on Mr Hamilton’s neck. He wrote in the appeal: “To this woman I am trying to find, you changed my life, and now I want to find you to say THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! Problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you are from.”

It added: “The message you showed me on your cell phone will forever be etched into my brain and has made a true life-changing difference for me and my family. Your instincts were right and the mole on the back of my neck was a malignant melanoma and thanks to your persistence and the quick work of our doctors, it is now gone.”

Within hours of the appeal, Ms Popovici was identified. She was invited by both teams to meet Mr Hamilton.

Before the NHL game on 1 January at the Climate Pledge Arena, the staffer and the fan were reunited and Mr Hamilton thanked her.

She told Mr Hamilton: “I was so nervous to bring it up so I tried to catch you at a moment where there weren’t a lot of people around!” She added: “I am so glad you saw [the message].”

Ms Popovici was awarded a $10,000 scholarship by Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken — the two teams playing on Saturday — for her medical school expenses.

Ms Popovici said: “Some people are saying this is not even going to be a drop in the bucket, but trust me, it feels like everything. I am really just so grateful.”

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