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NHL fan spotted staffer’s mole from the stands. Now he’s cancer-free, and she has a med school scholarship.

Vancouver Canucks staff member Brian “Red” Hamilton thanked Nadia Popovici in Seattle on Jan. 1 for calling attention to a cancerous mole. (Video: Vancouver Canucks)

Brian “Red” Hamilton, assistant equipment manager for the Vancouver Canucks, was walking off the bench during an October game in Seattle when a fan pressed her phone to the plexiglass. On it read a note: “The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!”

On Saturday night, after the team posted a social media callout from Hamilton to find the young woman, he was able to thank Nadia Popovici, 22, in person for an act he says saved his life.

Popovici’s note “threw me off, so I kind of just shrugged and kept going,” Hamilton said in a news conference. “And so ... I felt bad because I felt like I didn’t really give her the time of day.”

But he still sought a second opinion from a team doctor, who “didn’t like the looks of it, either,” removing the mole and having it tested. The results: malignant melanoma. It had been caught early enough that removing the mole was all that was needed. Within a week of seeing the note, he was cancer-free.

“The words out of the doctor’s mouth were that if I ignored that for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here,” Hamilton said.

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Popovici was asleep Saturday morning as the team’s callout was shared on Twitter and Facebook, quickly spreading and making its way to her mother. But she was already planning to attend the team’s game that night in Seattle.

Popovici, a Canadian American who plans to attend medical school this fall, had spotted the mole from her seat behind the bench and was nervous to bring it up, worrying she might embarrass Hamilton. So she waited until there weren’t a lot of people around him before showing him the note she’d written on her phone.

“I acknowledge that it’s so uncomfortable to have something on your body pointed out and so I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable,” Popovici told the Seattle Times, adding that she recognized the irregular mole from her time volunteering in hospitals. She wondered whether he’d had it checked out but didn’t expect to hear anything about it again.

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Instead, she woke Saturday to a rush of messages. She watched the news conference where Hamilton called her a “hero.” And she finally reunited with him, sharing a hug and a few words before the Canucks again faced the Kraken.

“My mom wants you to know she loves you,” Hamilton told her, and asked about her medical school plans. Popovici said she had been accepted to a couple of schools and planned to start in the summer or fall.

“What an amazing way to start my journey to med school,” Popovici told Hamilton. “It’s pretty priceless.”

Shortly after, during a timeout in the game, she learned that the teams together were awarding her a $10,000 scholarship.

Popovici didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday night.

Hamilton says he’s amazed Popovici was able to see the mole, which was fairly small and could easily have been obscured by his jacket or equipment. And he’s grateful she went to the trouble to tell him about it. “You know, I’ve got a wonderful family. I’ve got a wonderful daughter, and I just think, like, she extended my life. She saved my life.”

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