Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Brian "Red" Hamilton reunited with Nadia Popovici, 22, to thank her for saving his life.
Brian Hamilton and Nadia Popovici
Credit: Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty

Brian "Red" Hamilton, assistant equipment manager for the Vancouver Canucks, is praising an NHL fan who he says saved his life after spotting a cancerous mole on his neck during an October game.

Nadia Popovici, 22, was attending the Oct. 23 game in Seattle when she noticed a mole on the back of Hamilton's neck and found a way to notify him that it might be cancerous.

Popovici, who volunteers at an oncology ward in Tacoma, Washington and is preparing for medical school, spotted Hamilton several times and believed his mole was a "picture-perfect visual of what malignant melanoma is."

"I used the Notes app in my phone," Popovici said, according to a release from the Seattle Kraken. The note read, "The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!"

"When I held it up against the plexiglass, I smiled too, because I didn't want him to think I was someone hating on him," she said. "I'm not in a position to diagnose professionally. I was very concerned about pointing out the mole somehow [to Hamilton]. It can be embarrassing or jarring to point out something on a person's body."

Following the game, Hamilton got a professional opinion and biopsy. The team said he was diagnosed with type-2 malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer that could be easily removed and treated because it was caught early on.

Months later — and after successfully removing the melanoma — Hamilton wrote a letter that was posted on the team's Twitter account on Saturday, hoping to find Popovici who he says "changed my life."

Brian Hamilton and Nadia Popovici
Credit: Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty

Hours before Saturday's game at Climate Pledge Arena, Popovici and Hamilton were able to meet for an emotional reunion where he thanked his "hero" in person for her "effort and persistence." 

"The world needs to know that this woman exists, she's a hero and we need to celebrate her," Hamilton said during a press conference.

"She's the story. She's the person that did this. She saved the life. She needs to know her efforts were valid and bang on," he continued. "I want her to know and I want to say thank you to her."

Popovici was also celebrated during a timeout in the game, where the Kraken and Canucks surprised her with a $10,000 scholarship for medical school.

"Some people are saying this is not even going to be a drop in the bucket, but trust me, it feels like everything," Popovici said, per The New York Times. "I'm really just so grateful."

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