Hockey commentary in a sparkly suit: High Point’s Graham Tuck

By J Banzet

The night before the 2022 Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League tournament, color analyst Charles Crowell called his best friend and broadcast partner, Graham Tuck, to make sure everything was squared away.

The mid-February tournament was being played in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the two were the on-air talent broadcasting all 10 games. The tournament brought together the best college club hockey teams in the mid-Atlantic to determine its champion.

Everything needed to be perfect.

“Don’t forget any of the mics, and bring that sparkly suit,” Crowell told Tuck.

“Bro,” Tuck said. “I got it. Trust me.”

The next morning, Tuck, a junior at High Point University, wore the sparkly suit that matched his school’s colors, purple and black. His long brown hair — or “lettuce” as they say in the hockey world — flowed 2 inches past his collar and was pushed behind his ears when it was time to put on his headset. A black button-down shirt, purple tie and black pants finished the look. But the outfit’s signature piece was on his feet: a pair of glittery purple loafers matched his jacket to a tee.

Tuck arrived at the rink for Friday morning’s quarterfinals two hours before the first puck drop to set up all of the equipment on his own. Five cameras needed to be turned on and plugged in, so Tuck walked throughout the arena and meticulously checked each one. 

It’s not that he didn’t trust his color analyst Brian Coleman or director Tyler Cohen to do the job, it’s just that Tuck is a perfectionist — especially when it comes to his work.

“He cares about every little detail,” Coleman said. “It’s a little intimidating at first if I’m being honest with you.”

‘He’s got it all’

Tuck’s talent on-air shines more than each plastic sparkle on his suit. During the first three months of his freshman year, Tuck exceeded expectations so much that the league offered him a four-year contract to broadcast the conference tournament — before his first season at High Point had ended.

Though hockey isn’t nearly as big in North Carolina as it is up north, Tuck’s passion and skill level rivals broadcast voices from the sport’s hot beds (Toronto, Boston and New York) and even opposing teams are taking notice.

“He’s the only really good college broadcaster I’ve heard,” said UNC hockey forward Cole Kusowski. “Knowledge of the game, passion for the calls, simplicity for everyone to understand: he’s got it all.”

Tuck started broadcasting ice hockey games as a junior at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem for the local Carolina Thunderbirds, running the team’s social media during a championship season in 2018-19. He’s since founded Tuck Broadcasting LLC to take his voice to another level in the realms of hockey and baseball.

Barista by day, announcer by night

Tuck’s perfection stems from necessity.

His mom works for the local public school system and his dad referees high school football and lacrosse. And with two younger siblings still at home, Tuck funds his entire college experience. He earned a four-year sports broadcasting scholarship as part of HPU’s Communication Fellows Program, on top of having financial aid through FAFSA and another general university scholarship to cut costs.

Still, High Point’s roughly $58,000 price per year isn’t cheap, so calling games on contract helps him get close to breaking even.

And so does baristaing at Starbucks at 5:30 a.m. at the local Harris Teeter three mornings each week. 

“I’ve worked at Dairio, Brothers Cluckers, and now Starbucks because I have to,” Tuck laughed. 

In high school, Tuck never excelled at any sport, but he followed every major league like a part-time job. When his final baseball season ended in April 2019, Tuck put together his first broadcast reel in his living room on his iPhone 6’s “Voice Memos” app, commentating for a 7 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals matchup. 

He called the game into his headset at the same time as John Forslund and Tripp Tracy did for Fox Sports Southeast, narrating every explosive play. 

“Aho to Teravainen, drops it for Hamilton. Shoots, scores!”

Tuck has three semesters left at High Point and is under contract to call the school’s hockey games and HPU’s conference tournament every February. Just last week, Winston-Salem’s Carolina Thunderbirds offered him a full-time play-by-play role. However, Tuck turned them down to honor his High Point obligations. 

“I wanted it so badly but just couldn’t make it work,” Tuck said. “My time will come.”

Yes it will. Because the sparkly suit-wearing Starbucks barista has “got it all.”

He’s just that good.

Edited by Clay Morris and Kaitlyn Schmidt