When the Vancouver Canucks played the Seattle Kraken on New Year’s Day, they took a moment to honour a young woman in the crowd who helped the Canucks’ equipment manager.
It was a story that quickly went viral online and one that former Cranbrook Colt Kevin McNeill got to witness in person.
During the Kraken’s home opener on Oct. 23, Nadia Popovici noticed a mole on the neck of equipment manager Brian Hamilton. She alerted him that it was cancerous and he needed to get it checked.
When the two teams were set to meet again on New Year’s Day, Hamilton sent out a message to fans to help him find the woman he credits with saving his life.
“She extended my life. 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, but she took me out of a slow fire,” said Hamilton in an article on NHL.com.
“The words out of the doctor’s mouth were that if I ignored [the mole] for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.”
Hamilton was able to meet her before the game to say thank you and both teams took time to recognize her during the game.
It was a moment that McNeill said touched everyone who was there.
“I saw it on Facebook and didn’t pay much attention to it, but in between whistles they honoured that young lady and everyone stood up gave her a standing ovation. There really wasn’t a dry eye in the whole arena,” said McNeill.
“It was a magical moment for those guys.”
What surprised Hamilton the most was how she even saw the mole.
“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 that hooks on so the cords are there,” added Hamilton.
“She’s a hero.”
McNeill also noted that a fan helping out the other team was nice to see because the people who typically sit directly behind the bench aren’t always the friendliest.
“I played in Europe for a couple of years and there was no glass behind the benches so fans could just come and grab you and do whatever they wanted,” added the former Colt.
“Luckily for me, I didn’t speak Dutch so I didn’t know what they were saying.”
Popovici was recently accepted into medical school, so the Canucks and Kraken came together to provide $10,000 towards her tuition.