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Tuch's Debut is a Family Affair

Rookie forward shared first NHL game with parents in Vancouver over the weekend

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

The journey to the National Hockey League is a long one. In some cases, like for the Tuchs, it's a literal cliché.

After summoning him for his NHL debut in Vancouver on Saturday, the Wild went about calling up Alex Tuch, its 2014 first-round pick, then trying to get his mom and dad cross country to take it all in.

For Alex, getting to Vancouver from Des Moines presented its own challenges. For his parents, Carl and Sharon, getting them to British Columbia from upstate New York was no easy task either.

But the payoff is a moment the family will remember forever.

"We just feel really lucky and blessed to be here," Carl Tuch said. "We were pretty nervous. But we feel lucky and blessed. There are so many of these players that have sacrificed so much for the love of the game and so many parents have sacrificed for the love of their kids. We're just one of the lucky ones who made it this far."

Family is important to Alex. Asked what he was most looking forward to about the night was the fact that he was able to share it with his mom and dad. When the Wild hit the ice for warmups, there they were, seated in Section 101, Row 9, both clad in red Wild jerseys.

"We were relieved when the game started, let me tell you," Carl said. "The build-up and the texts and the tweets, it was just a crazy couple days."

Despite his parents' proximity to the ice, Alex said he didn't see them during the game. When he took his first shift and set up camp in front of Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, Alex and his parents couldn't have been separated by more than 50 or 60 feet. 

He had no idea, which was probably a good thing. Ever since he was a kid, Alex said he's had no interest in being the guy looking in the stands for mom and dad.

"I don't know why, but I never know where they're sitting usually," said Alex Tuch. "I think it started in youth hockey; I never used to look for my dad just because I didn't want to see the look on his face. I didn't know what to expect, but I hope they had fun. I think they might've gotten some camera time, I heard, so I'm really just very, very grateful that they were there."

The nerves for Alex began when he received official word of the call-up on Thursday. His journey began in Des Moines, where he got on a plane headed for Dallas. Once there, he changed planes for a flight to Vancouver.

To pass the time on the plane, and take his mind off what was ahead, Alex settled in for a pair of movies, first watching Ben Affleck's "The Accountant."

"Unbelievable movie," Alex said.

Afterward, it was Dr. Strange. After a late day arrival in Vancouver, he hit the ice for his first practice. He took a peek at the line chart and found out he was skating with a pair of seasoned vets in Eric Staal and Zach Parise.

"I went over and looked at the lines and was like, 'Okay.' Right away with Parise and Staal," Alex said. "Someone said, 'You're in [a] red [practice jersey] today,' I think one of the equipment managers, so I'm like okay, just keep my mouth shut, put it on and went to work." 

By the time Saturday's morning skate came around, the nerves returned. It took a shift or two into the game before they subsided, and what was left behind was a feeling of accomplishment -- of reaching a pinnacle that most can only dream of. 

"It's unbelievable. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life," Alex said. "I'm just glad my parents could come and I'm really thankful for my teammates for making it that much easier and that much better. My linemates really helped me out. They've been in my shoes - my skates, more like - they really helped me out, calmed my nerves and just said, 'Go out and play your game and have fun.'"

With all due respect to Iowa, and coach Derek Lalonde, Alex said his goal now is to find a way to stick in the NHL. With one goal checked off the list, it's time to get cracking on his next set of dreams.

It's a workmanlike attitude instilled in him by his parents, who have been there for him every step of the way, including Saturday when he made his biggest step yet.

"It was really amazing, unbelievable. You never let yourself believe that it was truly going to happen, just because you never really know what could happen," said Carl Tuch. "So many things have to go right. It takes so many people, he was helped all the way along, ever since he was two years old. I could literally stand here and thank 100 people, 200 people, and everybody had some piece of it. None of these guys made it here by themselves, they've had help all along. And everything has to go right. 

"Now, it's the next challenge. You're climbing this mountain. It's not one climb, there's all these different obstacles all the way up this mountain. Now he has his next obstacle. He wants to stay, he's got to stick. He may go back down, then he has to try and get his way back. He's gotta be mentally prepared for the next challenge."

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