Editor's note: My Google Alerts sends me articles written around the world with the words: Thousand Islands. One day in mid-November I saw this story illustrated by a familiar view: a bridge and a lighthouse. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted permission to reprint it for all those who now cheer on the Buffalo Sabres and know summer islander, Alex Tuch. Enjoy! See the original story here]
Author’s note: Inspired by a similar series done by the Seattle Kraken and Alison Lukan, this piece is the first in (what I hope to turn into) a new series, about Buffalo Sabres players and their tattoos. Tattoos can paint quite a picture of one’s life story, and often, they can be very personal. As it turns out, there are a handful of Sabres players with ink - and many with great stories to tell behind them! Huge thanks to Alex for chatting with me for this one.
In just over a year as a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization, forward Alex Tuch has quickly won over the fans. His skill on the ice is undeniable, but it’s also his personality that’s caught attention. A Baldwinsville native, the 26-year-old grew up as a Sabres fan. He’s become known for his “woo!” celebrations after victories. His talent and character are easily visible to anyone who watches him, on or off the ice.
While there are a number of ways a person can express themselves, one way Tuch does so is through a variety of tattoos inked on his body. Tuch’s tattoo journey began in 2018, with a whopping seven-hour-long session with Ink Masters Champion Joey Hamilton in Las Vegas.
Yes, you read that correctly: seven hours, in fine detail across the entire top half of his back. An extensively complex piece, Tuch had to return later for another three-hour session to complete the shading.
“I really wanted a tattoo, and I was messing around with some ideas,” Tuch told me. “My great grandma, Stephanie Mohacek, always stuck in my head. She passed away when I was 10 years old, and we were extremely close.”
“Growing up, I was her first great-grandson,” he added. “She was really close with my mom. She was the best, she meant the world to me. So I wanted to get something kind of in remembrance of her and her honor.”
The tattoo features the Slovakian coat of arms, flanked by two lion-like figures. To add a little extra flair, where the lions would traditionally be holding axes, these two are holding - what else? - hockey sticks. The name ‘GiGi,’ along with a quote - "The strength of a family lies in its loyalty to each other" - complete the piece.
While the upper back piece is by far the largest on Tuch’s body, there’s an equally intricate artwork on his upper right arm, honoring the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River.
“The top of my right arm is all around my cottage, my parents’ cottage, where my brother, sister and I pretty much grew up in the summertime,” he said.
A beautifully detailed composite piece pays homage to the area, including portraits of the Thousand Island Bridge - which he crossed many times in his youth - and Boldt Castle. Tuch’s upper arm is truly a tribute to an area where he spent much of his childhood summers. As he told me about each piece of art, I could feel his reminiscing about the memories of each place and how much it means to him.
“Heart Island, it’s a big tourist thing, but it’s right around the corner from where my cottage is,” he said. “We always took friends there to see it by boat, and that’s where we used to see the fireworks every Fourth of July.”
“Then we have the Rock Island lighthouse, which was our picnic spot every Labor Day weekend,” he added. “My two cousins had birthdays usually around Labor Day weekend, so we’d always go on a birthday picnic there, and we’d always venture around the island.”
Completing that piece is a compass with his name - Tuch - on the north side, along with a few other key, thoughtful details.
“Whenever we went up the cottage, we’d always say we’re going up north,” he said. “Then in the background of the compass, it has the island and river layout of where my parents’ and my current cottage is. On the bottom part is L-L-S-C, which is Leah, Luke, Sharon and Carl, for my family’s initials.”
Tuch’s newest piece of ink is a large cheetah on his lower right arm.
“It was always my favorite animal growing up,” he said. “I don’t even know why, I just loved it. The speed, the aggressiveness... the prowl, the hunt, everything like that. I always thought it was crazy how fast they could run. That was something I always wanted to get and keep the realistic side of my tattoos on my right arm.”
What’s next? Well, as you can see from the photos above, there’s still some blank space on his right arm, which Tuch has plans to fill out. He’s had all of his tattoo work done by the same artist in Vegas, so it’s all about fitting it in when he can. The cheetah, for example, was done when Tuch was out in Vegas this past summer for a wedding.
“I’ve got to finish the inside of the forearm on the right arm, and then I’ve got to blend it all together,” he said. “I can either do one flowing piece in the inside of the forearm, or two separate and blend it together, kind of like what I did on top.”
“I’m sure next time I go back out [to Vegas] when I don’t have a game the next day, I’ll be able to finish it.”
And what about the pain? Understandably, with 10 or 11 hours of work on the back piece, there’s going to be some pain. As for the arm, it was a piece of cake.
“The arm’s nothing, it’s easy,” he said. “It’s almost like if someone’s giving you a little massage. I would say the bottom of the shoulder blade on the back [is the worst.] He was doing long strokes, and it honestly felt like someone was taking a hot knife and just opening you up every time he went with it. But then he’d move two inches up to the side and it was like, it’s nothing again.”
“He used to have it where he did an overhead camera, and you can watch,” he said.
“It was a 20-second delay, so I would feel the pain and 20 seconds later, I’d see him make the mark and I’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s what happened.’ But it was really cool to watch.”
Tuch’s tattoos are already helping to tell his life story, from memories in the Thousand Islands to his relationship with his great-grandmother. As he mentioned, he’s still got plenty of open space on his right arm - and then a whole other arm, if he chooses to utilize it! Who knows, maybe he’ll even include an homage to Rick Jeanneret or a Buffalo Bills-related tattoo someday.
By Melissa Burgess@_MelissaBurgess Nov 17, 2022, 10:00am EST
Melissa Burgess has found the perfect way to combine her two passions - writing and hockey. She has written for several outlets over the last ten years covering topics such as the Buffalo Sabres, prospects and women's hockey. A born-and-raised Buffalonian, Melissa has been enthusiastic about the city's hockey for as long as she can remember. In addition to writing at Die By the Blade, Melissa covers women's hockey at The Victory Press. Please see Melissa Burgess Profile and Activity - Die By The Blade for more of Melissa's writing.
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