Two NHL teams awarded a hockey fan a $10,000 scholarship as a thank-you for spotting a cancerous mole on a staffer during a game and possibly saving his life.
The woman, Nadia Popovici, an incoming medical student, was watching the Vancouver Canucks play the Seattle Kraken in Seattle on Oct. 23 when she spotted a small mole on the neck of Brian "Red" Hamilton, the Canucks' assistant equipment manager.
Popovici waited for the game to finish, waved Hamilton over and placed her phone against the plexiglass to show him a message she had typed urging him to get his mole checked out.
At some point after the game, Hamilton followed her advice to go see the doctor, who proved Popovici to be correct: It was a type-2 malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
"It was only on the outer layer of my skin. It hadn't penetrated to the second layer of my skin, and that's because we caught it so early. It was relatively new," Hamilton said at a news conference Saturday. “She extended my life. I’ve got a wonderful family. I’ve got a wonderful daughter. She saved my life."
He continued: "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."
Hamilton also wrote a letter that was posted Saturday on the Canucks' social media accounts, asking for the internet's help to find the woman.
"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!" he wrote. "Problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you are from."
The letter quickly caught the attention of Popovici's mother, who commented on the Facebook post.
"She hasn’t even seen this message yet as she worked graveyard shift at the suicide crisis center in Seattle so she’s still asleep. She’ll be shocked to see this message!" her mother wrote. "She will be at the game tonight in the same seats. She’ll be so happy and excited to know he got it checked! What wonderful news!!!! She just got accepted into multiple medical schools!"
In a video posted on social media that afternoon, the two, clad in masks, meet in-person and embrace each other.
Hamilton revealed during their reunion that he was initially taken aback, but he later clarified that he was incredibly grateful for her "effort" and "persistence" to relay the message.
"I owe it to this person to get checked," he told Popovici in the video. "If she went this far, I don't know her, I don't know what she knows, I don't know anything about her — I had to get this checked."
At the game, the Canucks and the Kraken awarded Popovici with a $10,000 scholarship to use for medical school expenses.
The Canucks won 5-2, but the team captured the night best by tweeting a photo of Hamilton and Popovici taking a selfie together, captioned: "The biggest win tonight."