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

Climbing on: Kameron Thomas’ interesting, uninteresting life

By Hannah Kaufman 

Kameron Thomas reached for the next purple grip, his hand calloused and caked in the white powder that has now stained most of his good pants. 

“On belay?”

“Belay is on.”

Easily maneuvering his feet to the left, he stood and pulled the rest of his body up. Climbing a 5.11, which is a harder rock-climbing route, Thomas hurdled the overhang with ease. He wiped his dirty blonde hair out of his face with a grin and looked down at the other climbing staff confidently.

Thomas is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and a second-year climbing staffer at the campus’ rock walls. Lean and muscular, he’s happiest when using his hands. He sews sweaters for his girlfriend, he sculpts ceramics in art class and sometimes, he even flies planes, having earned his pilot’s license at age 17.

And last year, Thomas was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

A growing solution

The headaches began junior year of high school. Thomas went to 10 different doctors, each one telling him he was crazy in the same way a cheating spouse reassures a panicked partner: repeatedly, nonchalantly and with confidence.

Then, one doctor noticed something unusual after looking closely at his eyes: a malignant tumor on his pituitary gland. 

The tumor is the source of Thomas’ headaches, as well as heightened hormone levels that affect his mood and cause kidney stones. But for now, it’s too small to be taken out immediately.

 So, Thomas is waiting for it to grow. 

He goes through scans every six months, but as the tumor grows larger, the time between Thomas’ appointments will get shorter.

The day he found out about his tumor, Thomas felt glad. At least then he could define the problem, as his strategic, rock-climbing mind prefers clear-cut problems and solutions. 

“I thought it was a little funny,” he admitted. “I went through all this s— in my life, I keep on trudging through s—, and then ‘Oh, maybe I’ll get a break.’ Nah, you have a brain tumor now.”

Although frustrated with the hormonal impacts of the tumor, Thomas is not worried about its presence. His biggest fear is that it’s pushing against his eyes, which could cause him to lose his eyesight — and then his ability to fly.

His first experience on a plane was at 5 years old. Thomas was on a flight from Colorado to North Carolina by himself, so the staff let him walk around, racing through the aisles and meeting bemused passengers. Eventually, the pilots told him he could sit in the cockpit while they flew the plane.

Thomas watched, his eyes wide as he took in the stretching sky and array of flashing knobs and buttons. Perched in the pilot’s seat like an anxious baby bird, he fell in love with the feeling of freedom that being in the cockpit gave him. 

It was a relief that he had yet find anywhere else, including his home.

The path to a ‘sense of self’

Thomas’ parents were never married. His father lived in North Carolina and was often in and out of jail for drugs or violence, so Thomas and his brother lived with their mother in Colorado. He has seven other siblings, but he has never met most of them.

Growing up, his mother was always drunk and regularly did meth, heroin and crack. They moved around a lot, causing Thomas to miss kindergarten. By the time he was six, his mother had been reported to social services multiple times as teachers noticed bruises on his face, and after slamming her high heel into his brother’s head, the two boys were put into foster care.

In each of the six foster homes the two lived in, they were subjected to varying degrees of neglect. When a foster family was especially bad, Thomas’ brother would run away, and they’d be sent somewhere new.

 At 9 years old, Thomas was adopted by his father’s parents and went to live with them in Leasburg, North Carolina. His grandparents owned a logging company and had the means to support almost any hobby Thomas was interested in, such as glassblowing, metalworking, wood chopping and furniture building. 

But soon, real friends trickled in through his sturdy walls. He attended a local high school for two years before transferring to boarding school at the highly competitive North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

Although it took a while for most students to get to know him in high school, people were drawn to his strong sense of self, his friend Lauren Subramanium said.

“It was funny because when I saw him around campus, he always wore these cowboy boots,” Subramanium said. “I thought of him as ‘cowboy boots guy.’”

Something as cool as luck

Now, Thomas has a couple of close friends, but prefers to operate alone. Strangers find him reserved, while friends find comfort in his kind blue eyes and easy laugh. Yet, most of them couldn’t tell you more than a few basic things about him.

He’s traded his cowboy boots for a pair of Blundstones. He wears brown wide-legged pants, a cropped sleeveless shirt and has chipped matte green polish on his fingernails (he plans to repaint them soon). Thomas works at the climbing wall a few times a week, studies art and computer science and regularly bakes cookies with his girlfriend.

The raging headaches haven’t stopped. He still doesn’t tell friends about his tumor or his childhood because, honestly, people never know how to react to that sort of thing. And he finds himself wishing he had reached out to his mother before she committed suicide last year.

He still doesn’t know if she had a funeral. 

Sometimes when the hubbub of school and distractions goes away, he feels sad and angry. Thomas doesn’t feel unlucky — he wishes it was something as cool as luck. He thinks that bad things just happen.

“I don’t think my life is very interesting,” Thomas said.

“Sure, I don’t have parents, but other people don’t have parents, too,” he said. “I have cancer, but other people have cancer, too. So what? I think the only interesting thing is that I know how to do things.” 

Thomas sets his jaw and looks up at the asymmetric pattern of blue grips above him. He’s attempting a 5.12 at the rock wall. 

Smiling once he’s found the perfect route to take, Thomas puts his hand on the wall, like he’s done a million times.


“Climb on.”

Edited by Kaitlyn Schmidt and Clay Morris