John’s Journal: The Voice Of The Raiders Says Farewell
Hastings’ Tuckner Has Called Games For Nearly Two Decades
Posted: Monday, November 8, 2021 - 1:47 PM
Nick Tuckner, the radio voice of Hastings High School sports longer than any of the current Raiders have been alive, doesn’t go to end-of-season team banquets. His reasoning has always been this: If I go to one banquet, I better go to all of them. He made an exception, however, when the Hastings football team held its banquet on Sunday.
It was Tuckner’s first -- and last -- banquet as the play-by-play master on KDWA. The Raiders’ season ended in a loss to St. Thomas Academy on Friday in the Class 5A Section 3 championship game, which was Tuckner’s final game in a nearly 20-year radio career as he transitions to a new working life.
The football team honored Nick, 41, as if he was one of their own … which he is. He was presented with a jersey, helmet, framed photos and more hugs and handshakes than he can count.
“It made me get all gushy,” he said. “It was special.”
He was a multisport athlete before graduating from Hastings in 1999. Not long after that he began working as an unpaid color commentator on the radio station, and in March 2002 he joined the paid staff.
You name the sport and he’s been there on KDWA. He has called approximately 500 hockey games, missing very few. One came on the day he married his wife Erica (a 2002 Hastings grad); the announcement that the Raiders had defeated Bloomington Jefferson drew a big cheer at the wedding reception.
Also calling games for the Prescott Cardinals across the border in Wisconsin, Tuckner (everybody calls him “Tuck”) handled on-air duties for about 400 basketball games, close to 400 baseball games, a whole bunch of softball games and wrestling, volleyball, lacrosse, etc.
“How was I so lucky that I got to do this for so long?,” he asked when we chatted on the phone Sunday evening.
Tuckner is a member of a special club of Minnesota radio broadcasters who are devoted to high school sports and their communities and carry that responsibility with pride and love. Go almost anywhere in the state and you will hear them: Paul Raymo in Madison-Dawson, Rick Grammond in Pierz, Sheldon Willis in Grand Rapids, Mike Peterson in Perham, Larry Knutson in Moorhead, Zeke Fuhrman in Perham, Dwight Cadwell in Cloquet, Jim Birkemeyer in Ada and many, many others.
Tuckner announced his decision to leave radio on Oct. 27 via Twitter, including this: “I wish there were more words that I could spit out right now, but ‘Thank You’ are the only two words I will know over the next two weeks. It won't be enough. You all have meant the world to my family and I over the years ... and your love and support will never be forgotten.”
It has been a two-way love affair between Tuck and his listeners. During Friday night’s broadcast, he said, “Hello to everybody at the Hastings Veterans Home. They’ve been listening to games for years and I just want to say thanks to them.”
He also wished deer hunters good luck on the season that would begin in a few hours: “I’ll be with you next year, I promise you that. For the first time in 20 years.”
His decision was based on his family, which means the world to him. He and Erica are parents of 7-year-old Dallas, and Tuck has missed too many of his son’s activities because of his job. Now however, he will be there for everything. His next career is working in a sales and promotional role at Cernohous Chevrolet in Prescott, a five-mile drive from his home.
During Friday’s game, Tuck urged the Raiders on. Between the anthem and the kickoff he said to his listeners, “It sure would be fun to find a way tonight and move on to the promised land.”
As he and analyst Gerry Rupp called the game, statistician Dick Cragg kept track of the numbers. Nick wore a blue and gold Hastings hoodie and hat.
The Raiders trailed 7-0 at halftime; Tuck Tweeted, “Our Boys CAN DO THIS!!!!! BELIEVE.”
St. Thomas Academy took control in the second half and won 28-0 to advance to the state playoffs. Tuck grew emotional.
“It wasn’t until the final kneel down,” he said Sunday. “That’s when I kind of lost it. I knew Dallas and Erica were listening.”
After the final whistle, Cragg took the microphone to summarize the statistics. As he did that, Tuck Tweeted, “I love you, Hastings. It's been real. But now, it's time for me to fly ... I'll never forget the love from all of you.”
After Cragg was finished, the voice of the Hastings Raiders poured out his heart as he wrapped everything up on the air.
“Oh you guys. Almost 20 years. Thank you … I love you guys,” he said to his crew.
As tears began to flow, he said, “Oh man. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Thank you. I’ve felt your love, folks, as much as you’ve felt mine. And I know this wasn’t the way this was supposed to end. … But sometimes when it comes to real life, it can’t happen. People change, things change, situations change, job descriptions change.
“Dallas, buddy I know you’re at home right now and I know you’re listening to Daddy crying. I love you. I love you. We’ve had so much fun. We’ve got so many years for you to wear a Raider jersey now and I’m so excited for what comes next. It’s time to be dad, it’s time to be coach, and this will all be for you, buddy.
“I love you and we’ll see you soon. Bye everybody.”
As his final broadcast came to a close, Tuck put his arms on the table, lowered his head and cried.
It wasn’t long before he was chatting and joking with others in the press box. Then came a surprise visitor. St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O’Brien walked in to shake Tuck’s hand and congratulate him. “We need more like you,” he told Nick.
“Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh,” Tuck said Sunday. “For him to take the time away from celebrating with his team? He took the time to come up and talk to me? Are you kidding me? The relationships I’ve had with so many coaches in the Suburban East and Metro East (conferences) for 20 years, it’s really special. That was so special.”
After so many years of talking on air, Tuck was walking on air after Sunday’s football banquet. Coaches and players thanked him for all he has done, but there were also glimpses of the bright future ahead for Hastings’ favorite broadcaster.
Senior captain John Chorlton gave Tuck a great big hug and started talking about the upcoming hockey season.
“It’ll be so much fun,” he told Tuck. “You’ll get to be a fan and cheer and yell.”
How great is that?
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org