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Canuck staffer saved from cancer thanks to Kraken fan – The Province

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Brian “Red” Hamilton discovered a malignant melanoma on his neck after a Seattle Kraken fan got his attention during an October NHL game.

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Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton didn’t realize he had a cancerous growth on his neck until he visited Seattle in October.

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But an eagle-eyed fan sitting behind the Canucks’ bench for the Kraken’s inaugural home game on Oct. 23 at Climate Pledge Arena saw something that concerned her.

And now Hamilton wants to say thanks to her, and let the world know the story.

After the Canucks shared a message on social media Saturday morning asking for help in tracking down the woman, it didn’t take long for word to spread and for the team and her family to connect.

“I’m happy that story’s there, not for me, but for her because the world needs to know that this woman exists, and she’s a hero, and we need to celebrate her and people like her,” Hamilton said on Saturday.

About an hour after the Canucks posted the message to Twitter, a reply came in suggesting the family of Nadia Popovici was looking to make contact. The team was able to speak with her and Popovici was able to meet Hamilton before Saturday’s game.

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Popovici was sitting behind the bench and got Hamilton’s attention as he was rearranging iPads, gloves and extra skate blades between periods at that October game.

Popovici had written a note on her phone that said she was concerned about a mole she’d noticed on his neck. She made the text on the screen large and colourful, obviously hoping he’d notice it. He finally saw it but didn’t think much of it initially.

“It had irregular borders and it was discoloured and fairly large,” Popovici, 22, told Postmedia Saturday.

Popovici’s going into medical school next fall — she’s been accepted by several schools but hasn’t chosen one yet — and had spent some time helping out in an oncology ward, so she was familiar with what cancers like Hamilton’s look like.

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Popovici was at the October game with her mom. She and her mom, Yukyung, are lifelong Canucks fans, though they have thrown their hockey dollars into Kraken tickets since the NHL arrived.

“My mom is a huge Canucks fan, a huge Canucks fan before the Kraken,” Popovici said.

It was a special thrill for them to be behind the Canucks’ bench for the Kraken’s home opener.

“We were going back and forth on what jersey to wear,” Popovici said, admitting they settled on the home team’s colours that night.

“But I’m a Canucks fan, I’ve cheered for them forever.”

Popovici and her family lived in Vancouver before her parents split up and she and her mom moved south to Washington. A dual citizen, she graduated from the University of Washington in 2019.

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Hamilton told reporters Saturday that Popovici “changed his life.”

“She extended my life. I’ve got a wonderful family, a wonderful daughter. She saved my life. She didn’t take me out of a burning car — like a big story — but she took me out of a slow fire,” he said.

“I want you all to know that this isn’t about me. It’s about an incredible person taking the time to notice something concerning and then finding a way to point it out during the chaos of a hockey game. Going to great lengths to get my attention from the stands while I did my job on the Canucks bench,” he said in his original message.

Hamilton said the message Popovici to relayed to him on her phone will forever be etched in his mind, even if he didn’t process it at first.

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“Her persistence is what saved my life.”

Hamilton, 47, said the message from Popovici lingered in his mind. Once he was back home in Vancouver, he asked his wife Jess to look at the mole and she agreed it looked unusual.

He was amazed the Seattle fan had seen it in the first place, given he’s always wearing a jacket and an earpiece that would partly obstruct the mole.

Three days later he talked to Canucks’ team doctor Dr. Jim Bovard, who agreed the mole looked concerning and took a biopsy. Within days, it had been completely removed by a specialist, who said it was cancerous — a malignant melanoma.

The specialist told Hamilton that the melanoma hadn’t penetrated far into his skin, but it would have been a life-threatening situation if he had neglected it for another few years,

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“It’s a pretty surreal phone call.”

Hamilton was thrilled about the idea of meeting Popovici. The Canucks invited her to the arena early on Saturday so she could meet Hamilton and have dinner with him.

“I’m so happy his wife encouraged him to get the mole checked out,” Popovici said.

Hamilton said he hoped his message would prompt others to be aware of blemishes or moles on their skin.

Hamilton, born-and-raised in Richmond and now a Langley resident, has worked more than 1,000 games over the last two decades for the Canucks after spending more than a decade working for the B.C. Lions.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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NHL announces massive update to 2021-22 season schedule with games moved due to COVID-19 – CBS Sports

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IMAGN

The NHL has announced an update to the 2021-22 regular season schedule, which will allow all 32 teams to finish their 82-game seasons by the original closing date of April 29.

As a part of the update, there are new dates for all 98 games that had been previously postponed from Nov. 18, 2021 to Jan. 18, 2022 due to COVID-19. In addition, there are date changes regarding 23 other games in an effort to accommodate the new dates for games that were postponed.

The league will use the 16-day period from Feb. 7-22 that was previously slated for the NHL‘s participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics. There will be games scheduled on all 16 of those days.

“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our Clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the Players for their cooperation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a press release.

In addition to these changes, the NHL also revealed that there will be start time changes for the following games:

The NHL had a short pause over the holiday break due to several teams dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. The league returned to the ice on Dec. 28.

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Stu Cowan: New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes a breath of fresh air – Montreal Gazette

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Montreal native and former player agent calls new job job “the chance of a lifetime” on an emotional day filled with pride and excitement.

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Jeff Gorton wanted to make it clear that Kent Hughes is not his best friend.

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“Nobody would want any of my best friends to be running the Montreal Canadiens, so I would never do that to you,” Gorton, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bell Centre to introduce Hughes as the team’s new general manager.

“No offence, but Kent is not my best friend.”

Gorton explained that his relationship with Hughes dates back to when he was an assistant GM with Boston and was negotiating an NHL entry-level deal for Patrice Bergeron after the Bruins selected their future captain in the second round of the 2003 draft. Hughes was Bergeron’s agent and he impressed Gorton.

Over the years, Gorton and Hughes — both living in the Boston area — kept in regular contact, talking on the phone a couple of times a week because Gorton trusted the agent’s opinion on hockey matters and respected him as a person. Gorton called it a professional relationship and added they never socialized together, although Gorton did meet Hughes’s wife, Deena, a couple of times.

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As GM of the New York Rangers, Gorton also selected Hughes’s son Riley in the seventh round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

While they might not be best friends, there’s no doubt Gorton wanted Hughes to join the Canadiens. During Wednesday’s press conference, we learned why.

For someone not used to being in the public spotlight, Hughes shone on the stage set up on the ice at the Bell Centre for him, Gorton and team owner/president Geoff Molson. Hughes answered a variety of hockey-related questions thoughtfully and intelligently for 50 minutes and looked like the GM of a billion-dollar NHL franchise in a sharp blue business suit with a red tie. The 51-year-old was also very, very comfortable speaking French.

Hughes’s life changed dramatically when he walked onto the stage just after 4 p.m. in front of the TV cameras, photographers and journalists. He will never walk the streets of Montreal unrecognized again.

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Hughes said it was an emotional day for him, one filled with pride and excitement, adding he grew up dreaming of playing for the Canadiens but that this was the second-best option. He called this the “chance of a lifetime.”

“Certainly, from an agent perspective I was more of a behind-the-scenes type of agent,” Hughes said. “Having said that, I’m more excited about not who I am publicly, rather the challenges that lie ahead.

“I would describe myself as a hockey junkie,” he added. “I always have been. I’ve worked in the sport, I’ve coached in the sport. I’ve coached without my own children as part of it and my wife will tell you that if I’m not coaching or working in hockey I’m talking about hockey. So for me the public part of it is what it is. The excitement is the hockey piece.”

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Eleven candidates were interviewed for the job, but Gorton was hoping Hughes would be willing to leave his lucrative player-agent business to become GM of the team he grew up cheering for. Gorton approached Hughes at the beginning of the search process and he needed time to think about it. Near the end of the process Gorton went back to Hughes and then it was a matter of “leaving him alone and letting him come back to me.”

As GM of the Rangers, Gorton had tried to get Hughes to join him in New York, but the timing wasn’t right for him from a business or a family standpoint. While pondering whether to take the Canadiens job, Hughes got a call from his friend Bill Guerin, who is GM of the Minnesota Wild.

“Kent, it’s the New York Yankees, it’s the Dallas Cowboys, it’s the Montreal Canadiens,” Hughes said Guerin told him. “Come on! You don’t have a decision.”

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Now Gorton and Hughes can start the very difficult job together of rebuilding a franchise with a record 24 Stanley Cups that sits in last place in the overall NHL standings. Hughes is going to take some time getting to know the players both on and off the ice ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.

Hughes said the choice of words — rebuild, retool, reset — isn’t important. He noted the team that wins the Stanley Cup every year isn’t necessarily the one with the most talented players. He wants to create an environment people want to be a part of and build a team culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction. He’s not looking to win for just one or two years, but to create an environment where the team can compete for many years to come.

“I think when we set out, ultimately I wanted somebody … our committee wanted somebody that was a really good hockey person that would complement my skills or my skill set as well as we could and I think that’s what we’ve done,” Gorton said. “I’m really confident in that.”

I can see why — even if Hughes isn’t his best friend.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Kent Hughes, centre, listens to Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens' executive vice-president of hockey operations, left, as owner Geoff Molson looks on.

    New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes passes first test with the team

  2. Kent Hughes walks across the Bell Centre ice after a news conference introducing him as the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager in Montreal on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

    What the Puck: Canadiens turn page with Kent Hughes

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Soccer-USMNT embrace the cold as World Cup qualifying heats up

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Bone chilling conditions are forecast for the next three U.S. men’s national team World Cup qualifying matches and the players on Wednesday said they were excited to battle the elements and their opponents.

Snow, frigid wind and sub-zero temperatures will likely greet the USMNT when they host El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27, take on Canada in Ontario three days later, and close out the window against Honduras in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Feb. 2.

Defender Walker Zimmerman said the prospect of cold weather brought back memories of the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in March 2013’s Snow Clasico in Colorado.

“I’m really excited,” Zimmerman told reporters on a call.

“I was talking to my wife over the break and I was saying, I want it to be freezing, I want it to be cold, I want it to snow. I want to be part of something so iconic, something like that game that I really remember seeing when I was growing up.

“And I think the guys are ready to embrace it.”

Forward Paul Arriola said he and his team mates have played in cold weather before and trust in their support staff to help them get ready.

“The staff on the national team do a tremendous job, and we have full confidence in them to prepare us,” he said.

“And we have our own duties as professional players and players on the national team to be ready for every possible condition.

“We’ll embrace the cold, and it will be a really good environment for the fans as well.”

The U.S. are second in the standings for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers with 15 points, a point behind Canada and one ahead of rivals Mexico.

The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.

The team are eager to put behind them the humiliating loss they suffered at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, which prevented them reaching the World Cup in Russia and led to a complete rebuild.

 

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)

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