Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch took some time during the NHL All-Star break to visit his brother Luke in Plymouth, Michigan, where Luke is a member of the U.S. National Under-17 Team, part of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
Tuch was there for his brother's game against the Central Illinois Flying Aces, which the NTDP lost 4-1. After joining the team for practice and morning skate, Tuch stood behind the bench and gave pointers to the players throughout the game.
"I was welcomed with open arms," Tuch said. "It was great to be back and see some of the people that are still there. As much fun as it was being on the bench the entire game, my feet hurt from standing on the bench for so long."
Tuch, who played at the program at the Under-17 level in 2012-13 and the Under-18 level in 2013-14, was impressed with the new facilities that the players use today after the team moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Plymouth in 2014-15. He credited the program for setting him up for his professional success and noted how the team's current status will continue to produce skilled hockey players.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't go to the NTDP," Tuch said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't represent my country and take pride in representing the USA in all of those international tournaments. Every time I put that USA sweater on, it really meant something to me."
Tuch had the opportunity to speak to the team about his experience as a young hockey player striving to play in the NHL. He told them about how hard they need to work to reach the next level and how they should handle adversity when it stands in front of them.
"There have been some hockey people that have said that Luke is going to go high in the draft, but I told him that it's not about the draft," Tuch said. "There are guys playing in Vegas right now who went undrafted, there are first round picks, seventh round picks and so on. If you don't get drafted, it's not the end of the world. Ask half of our team. That's something that helps your game and gets you to motivate yourself to be the best you can be."
Returning to the team to talk with the NTDP players was something Tuch took seriously because of his positive experience with the program. He listened attentively when former NHL players would talk to him when he was that age so he wanted to impart some wisdom that will help Luke and his teammates achieve their dreams.
"You take bits and pieces from people that have been through what you're going through and have had success at that level of life," Tuch said. "It's eye-opening. It allows the players to realize how lucky, privileged and blessed they are to be in that position."
Tuch enjoyed watching his younger brother up-close - an opportunity he doesn't enjoy much during the hockey season. He sees similarities between himself and Luke on the ice, with an exception that Tuch believes will make Luke an effective player in the NHL one day.
"If I had a good game growing up, I had two goals and two assists," Tuch said. "If Luke had a good game, it was because he had a goal, an assist and every parent, player and coach for the other team hated him. He's an unbelievable person off the nice, the nicest guy in the world but once he steps on that ice, it's no friends. It's do-or-die for him. He's got a fierce, competitive edge and it's great to see."
After leaving the NTDP in 2014 to play at the college level, Tuch played two seasons for Boston College. Luke has committed to play college hockey in Boston as well, but at a school on the opposite end of Commonwealth Avenue from where Tuch played. Luke will begin as a freshman at Boston University for the 2021-22 season.
"Boston University really wanted him," Tuch said. "They treated him really well, they gave him a great visit and he really pictured himself putting on that Terrier jersey. I'm very proud to say that my brother has a Division-I scholarship offer from any school."
Tuch wants his brother to have success at the college level, but is still clear about where his allegiances lie.
"People always ask me if I'm going to cheer for BU now and I say heck no," Tuch said. "If BU and BC play, I hope BC wins 4-3 but my brother has a hat trick."
School spirit aside, Tuch is ecstatic that his brother is going to play his college hockey in one of the sport's hotbeds.
"BU has put a ton of guys in the NHL, it's a great school and he's going to love it. I'm really glad that he's going to college in Boston, it's one of my favorite cities of all time."