Earlier this year, Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton and Seattle Kraken fan Nadia Popovici captured the attention of the hockey world.
While attending a game between the Canucks and Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena, Popivici — sitting directly behind the Vancouver bench — took notice of a dangerous-looking mole on the back of Hamilton’s neck.
Popovici immediately did what she could to alert Hamilton, pressing her phone up to the glass to deliver a life-saving message: “the mole on the back of your neck is cancer.”
Hamilton subsequently had the Canucks’ team doctors take a look at the mole. They agreed with Popovici’s assessment, deeming it to be cancerous and providing him with the necessary treatment.
The Canucks and Kraken organizations recognized Popovici with free tickets to their game at Rogers Arena on New Years’ Day and a $10,000 scholarship to help her attend medical school. She also received a personalized Canucks jersey from Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
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Last week, the National Hockey League announced it had invited Hamilton and Popovici to present the Hart Memorial Trophy at its 2022 awards ceremony. The Hart is voted upon by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given annually to the NHL’s most valuable player.
“Brian, when I first showed you that message on my phone, we were just strangers,” Popovici said at the awards ceremony. “Now, it feels like we’re family, and it’s so great to be here together to hand out the biggest award in the sport.”
Hamilton and Popovici announced Auston Matthews as the 2022 winner of the Hart Trophy, making him the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to win the award since Ted Kennedy did so in 1955.
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Matthews scored 60 goals and 106 points in 73 games with the Leafs in 2021–22. New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid were also named finalists for the Hart.
Matthews was named a first-team all-star and also received the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player (as determined by the members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association). He became the first Leafs player to win the Lindsay (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award) since it was first handed out in 1971.