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Canucks’ Brian ‘Red’ Hamilton and Nadia Popovici to present Hart Trophy at NHL Awards

Presenters at Tuesday's NHL Awards will include people in the hockey world with stories of resilience and inspiration.
Nadia Popovici and Red Hamilton
Nadia Popovici and Brian "Red" Hamilton will be presenting the Hart Trophy on Tuesday night at the NHL Awards.

The NHL was looking for people with stories of resilience and inspiration to present at the NHL Awards on Tuesday night. Brian “Red” Hamilton and Nadia Popovici were perfect.

Red has been an assistant equipment manager with the Vancouver Canucks for 16 years. Thanks to Popovici, he’ll have the opportunity to be with the Canucks for many more years.

That’s because Popovici saved Red from cancer at a hockey game in November. The Seattle Kraken fan had great seats for the Kraken’s first-ever home opener, sitting right behind the Canucks’ bench. While she was enjoying the game, however, she spotted a mole on the back of Red’s neck that had all the telltale signs of a melanoma: it was raised and had a large diameter, discoloration, and irregular border.

Popovici acted quickly, writing a message on the Notes app on her phone, enlarging the font and highlighting words like “cancer,” “doctor,” and “mole,” then banged on the glass to get Red’s attention and held her phone to the glass. 

Red got the message, went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with a type-2 malignant melanoma — it had not yet penetrated the skin and could be safely removed, but if he hadn’t gotten it checked out right away, things could have been a lot worse. 

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

The story traveled far in early 2022 when Red published a public letter trying to find Popovici to thank her. The two were able to connect and both the Kraken and the Canucks made a $10,000 contribution to Popovici’s medical school tuition — that’s right, she diagnosed a melanoma before even going to medical school.

Red and Popovici made appearances on talk shows and the story made the rounds on late night tv. Now the two will be presenting at the NHL Awards.

And not just any award. Red and Popovici will be presenting the biggest trophy of the night: the Hart Trophy for most valuable player.

The other presenters also have stories that inspired and moved the hockey community this past year: ALS survivor and Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow; Milton Academy forward Jake Thibeault, who was paralyzed in a hockey game but came back to walk at his high school graduation; Thomas Hodges, who stepped into a game for the Anaheim Ducks as an emergency backup goaltender despite being blind in one eye; and Martin Lafleur, son of the late Guy Lafleur, who passed away in April at the age of 70.

Hosted by Saturday Night Live star and knuckle-puck innovator Kenan Thompson, the NHL Awards will air on Sportsnet at 4 p.m. PST in Canada and on ESPN in the U.S.