Oct. 23 was much more than the home opener for the expansion Seattle Kraken.
For Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton, it was a life-saving event.
Hamilton said that a fan behind the bench got his attention during the game with a very important observation about the mole on the back of his neck.
“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,” Hamilton wrote. “Your instincts were right and that mole on the back on my neck was a malignant melanoma and thanks to your persistence and the quick work of doctors, it is now gone.”
Hamilton, who worked his 1,000th NHL game last season, never got the fan’s name and put out the request through the team’s Twitter’s account “so I can express my sincerest gratitude” to his “real-life hero.”
Not long after the Canucks’ post, the Kraken tweeted that the woman’s identity had been found. Nadia Popovici, 22, is heading off to medical school.
Popovici told The Seattle Times that she had seen plenty of melanoma while volunteering at hospitals.
“He kind of glanced at my phone and walked away and I thought maybe he’d already seen it,” she said. “Maybe he’d already gotten it checked out by a doctor, it’s probably fine. Then for this to happen months later, to hear he had possibly five years before showing debilitating symptoms. I mean, that’s, it’s just so incredible that I’ve had the opportunity to reach him at that moment.”
Popovici and Hamilton met each other before Saturday’s Canucks-Kraken game in Seattle, and both teams said they would donate $10,000 toward her medical education.
Hamilton went on Zoom to explain what happened when he was moving equipment at the end of a period.
“When she pointed it out, I had never seen it. It was on the back of my neck,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was there. So then when I started asking people, like doctors with the team, they didn’t like the looks of it either. So I got scared right off the hop. I knew in the back on my mind that she was right.”
The mole had not penetrated the second layer of his skin, he said.
Hamilton appreciated the woman’s persistence in making sure he knew.
“She was right against the glass and she had her phone pressed up against the glass,” he said. “The thing that really registered in my mind that it wasn’t on a text. She had gone to more effort to make the font bigger and colorful so it would get my attention.”
Hamilton said doctors told him he would have been in trouble if he had ignored the mole.
“She extended my life,” he said. “I’ve got a wonderful family. I’ve got a wonderful daughter. … She saved my life. She didn’t take me out of a burning car, like the big stories, but she took me out of a slow fire.”