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First Seattle Kraken Home Game Remembered – For a Great Reason

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Seattle kraken
Seattle Kraken fan Nadia Popovici poses for a photo before an NHL hockey game between the Kraken and the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 1, 2022. Popovici is showing the text of a message she showed to Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton on Oct. 23, 2021, as she sat behind the Canucks' bench during the Kraken's home-opener. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

On Oct. 23, 2021, the Seattle Kraken played its first home game as the newest team in the NHL.

Do you remember who they played or how the Kraken fared?

How about the story of Nadia Popovici?

With the Florida Panthers visiting Seattle tonight, now is a good time to review her heroics during Seattle’s maiden season.

She was responsible for what was probably the best hockey feel-good story in many years.

What she has done since may be more amazing. 

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You might recall that at the Kraken’s first-ever home game, against Vancouver, she was the young pre-med graduate who sat behind the Vancouver bench and, with her trained eye, noticed an odd-looking mole on the neck of Canucks’ assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton.

Using her experience and intuition, she wrote a message on her iPhone and put it against the glass behind the bench when the game ended, while frantically banging on the glass to get Hamilton’s attention.

Hamilton eventually saw the note and wasn’t sure what to do about it or what she was trying to tell him. 

After he referred it to the Vancouver medical staff, he was sent for further evaluation.

Sure enough, the mole was a malignant melanoma, a very serious skin cancer. 

It was surgically removed, and the cancer was cleared.

Had this been left unchecked, it would likely have metastasized and could have created a life-threatening situation.

When it all ended, Hamilton wanted to thank the young lady but had no idea who she was or where to find her.

The Vancouver PR staff frantically put together a social media campaign to try to identify her.

She was ultimately found when her mother saw a re-post on Facebook.

Hamilton and Popovici met at the next Vancouver visit and he and his family were able to personally thank her for her efforts.

She was an instant social media celebrity.

The Canucks and Kraken gave her a $10,000 gift to go towards her medical school tuition.

 The story doesn’t end there. This is an amazing young woman.

Popovici is now a second-year medical student at the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM). 

Last August, she donated a kidney to a total stranger.

She has represented UWSOM in speaking with state legislators about advancing rural and underserved mental healthcare access.

In December 2022, she was presented with a Musial Award, which “celebrates the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and those in sports who exemplify class and character.”

She received the recognition in a nationally televised event.

She concluded her very articulate and humble acceptance speech by saying: “I was lucky enough to have a scholarship that funded my undergraduate degree and medical school. I mean, we know how expensive that is. The debt is rising, but yeah, we have overcome the financial strain because of my mom’s dedication and hard work.

“I could not thank the Canucks and the Kraken enough and the hockey community enough for giving me this opportunity to continue caring for patients. I am a big believer in patient equity, and one of the best things about melanoma is that it is aggressive, but it is preventable, and you all can learn how to do the same thing.” 

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ SEATTLE KRAKEN 

  • When: Tuesday, 10 p.m.
  • Where: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • This Season (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Kraken 2 (Oct.28). At Seattle: Tuesday.
  • Last Season: Tied 1-1
  • All-Time Regular Season Series: Seattle leads 3-2-0
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Vancouver, 10
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