Adam Macallister's sportswriting career is about to end before it begins, but he's got one last shot--a Sports Illustrated profile about hockey's most notorious goon, the reclusive Terry Punchout--who also happens to be Adam's estranged father. Adam returns to Pennington, Nova Scotia, where Terry now lives in the local rink and drives the Zamboni. Going home means drinking with old friends, revisiting neglected relationships, and dealing with lingering feelings about his father and dead mother--and discovering that his friends and family are kinder and more complicated than he ever gave them credit for. Searching for Terry Punchout is a charming and funny tale of hockey, small-town Maritime life, and how, despite our best efforts, we just can't avoid turning into our parents.
"Funny, quirky, sad and sweet. Searching for Terry Punchout is a story of friendship and family, of hockey heroes and small-town hangovers, of Zamboni lessons and thrift store beauty queens. Highly recommended!" -Will Ferguson, author of The Shoe on the Roof
Tyler Hellard is a Calgary-based copywriter, technology critic and author. His debut novel, Searching For Terry Punchout, was shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.
Searching for Terry Punchout is strong and active writing that led me into the world of a character I did not expect to embrace as fully as I did. While I enjoy male writers and fiction about guys, sports have rarely caught my interest. Nevertheless, this book worked well for me, even with its use of hockey as a creative element. I'm tempted to call it "guy's fiction," but I think this is writing for both genders.
When a story contains hockey, one last chance for redemption, a trip back home and some touching family moments, it is a story that is worth reading. All of these and more are contained in Tyler Hellard’s excellent debut novel.
Adam Macallister returns from Calgary to his small home town in Nova Scotia to write a story for Sports Illustrated about the player who holds the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a career, nicknamed Terry Punchout. His real name is Terry Macallister – Adam’s father. Between the time his career ended and the unplanned reunion with his estranged son, Terry has returned to his hometown and lived at the local rink where he works driving the Zamboni and on general maintenance of the rink.
On the trip back, Adam interviews his father and has many memories dredged up, both good and bad. The reader will easily connect with Adam, not only for family matters but also when he reunites with his high school friends, a girl for whom he pined and now has a son, and his brief attempt at playing hockey again. Terry is also a complex character and the reader will get into the mind of a hockey player who used to be considered an enforcer, even if fictional.
The story moves along nicely without going to fast or dragging along, making the reading very easy. Adam shares some interesting philosophical tidbits of life as well as comic lines. One example of the funny side of the book is when Adam describes the phrase “out west”: “Out west is the very specific term people on the east coast apply to everything between Toronto and Japan.” For an example of his philosophical views, try this one: “…I had to work out my own world view. What I came up with was this: everything in life is pass or fail.”
The story has a very interesting conclusion as well that will leave the reader satisfied and yet with questions at the same time. It is a story that is recommended for readers who enjoy hockey fiction, stories of family and of memories. It was certainly one of the best hockey fiction books I have read.
I wish to thank Invisible Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Funny, sarcastic, and poignant, this story packs a whole lot into a small space in the best possible way. It's about returning to your hometown, and realizing you're not as different as you hoped you were. And coming to terms with your past and your family and your friends. And a little bit about hockey and life in a small town. If you read this and don't laugh out loud you are not a real human ;) Read it!
Although I'm not a fan of hockey, I am a fan of family dramas and this one lives up to the hype. Father and son re-connect after years of estrangement and silence when the protagonist returns to his hometown to write an article for Sports Illustrated detailing his father's uniquely violent history as a hockey player. Poignant and self-deprecating humor mark this debut as a novel with secrets and pain that prove maybe you CAN go home again! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
First of all, any book with hockey as a main theme is already going to get high marks from me. :-) I am a HUGE hockey fan (Go Blues!) and there just aren't enough good books that feature hockey. This is a good, funny and touching book that I really enjoyed reading. I've never read anything by this author, but will definitely read more of his books.
Adam Macallister is from small town Pennington, Nova Scotia. He was raised by a single mother after she split from his father, a NHL enforcer nicknamed Terry Punchout. Adam and his father were never close, even after Adam's father's career ended and he returned to Pennington. Terry Punchout initially returned to his home town as a hero, but having lost his meager savings in a failed business venture with no Plan B, he eventually wears out his welcome in town and becomes a "has-been". Terry eventually takes a job driving the Zamboni and performing maintenance at the local ice rink.
When Adam's mother dies during his last year of high school, he packs his bag and leaves town without saying goodbye to anyone. He has no contact with anyone from his home town, not even his father. After college, Adam starts work as a sportswriter but is quickly laid off. With nowhere to go, and desperate to jump-start his career, he returns to his hometown with an idea to write a feature for Sports Illustrated about one of hockey's most notorious goons - his father. Now he just needs to get his father to cooperate.
The characters are charming and I really liked Adam. I enjoyed following his journey as he reconciles relationships with his friend, father and town. He discovers that his opinions about his friends and the town are a bit harsher than necessary, and that life in a small town is more complicated than expected. The book is witty and fun, while at the same time sad and touching.
I was given a copy of Searching For Terry Punchout by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Reconnecting with an estranged family member, especially one that was once a famous/infamous household name, can go any number of ways. Adam Macallister takes us with him back to his hometown to hopefully save his sportswriting career by interviewing his own father, a once feared professional hockey “enforcer”. “The fight that ended my father’s career was legendary...that fight was regarded as no less than the greatest fight in the history of hockey...The fight became mythical-to hear people talk about it, you’d swear Terry Punchout slew a dragon, conquered a continent, and died the noblest of deaths. The very thing that destroyed his career was also his crowning achievement “. Adam’s own hockey career ended early, and badly, with “ that air of disappointment only parents emit (hanging) between us “. Besides sorting out their complicated father - son relationship, going home leads Adam to some awkward encounters with old friends and high school crushes. I liked the premise of this novel and the writing style. The dialogue rang true and it was both nostalgic and funny. I was surprised to learn that this is the author’s debut novel and will look forward to future releases from him. Thank you, NetGalley for the opportunity to read this entertaining new novel.
"The nicknames cut in dressing rooms bleed into the rest of our lives. For all the romanticizing of hockey in this country, no one ever mentions that in places like Pennington, it's literally responsible for your identity."
Adam Macallister is an unemployed sportswriter who left Pennington, the small town in Nova Scotia where he grew up, a decade ago, after his mother's death. Estranged from his father, a former hockey player who holds the rather dubious record for most penalty minutes in an NHL career, Adam decides to return home to see if he can interview his dad for Sports Illustrated. (He's back in the news because his record is about to be broken by another player.) After leaving the NHL, Terry Macallister, better known by his nickname Terry Punchout, disappeared back into Pennington, where he now drives the Zamboni and works as the handyman at the local hockey rink. Of course, going back home also forces Adam to confront the past he's been trying to avoid ever since he departed without saying goodbye.
I'm not a hockey fan, but I do like family sagas, and this is a strong debut with a distinctly Canadian setting. The rhythms of life in a small, hockey-mad town and the relationship between Adam and his old friends from high school were well-portrayed.
I live in a hockey family and in a hockey part of the world, so as soon as I saw this title I couldn't request it fast enough... What fun - bittersweet and painful, just like hockey! It was like Beautiful Girls meets Slapshot - in the best possible way. As someone from a small town who also fled at the first opportunity - and also found herself back decades later - I could relate to this in ways that made me smile and tear up and laugh myself silly as I joined Adam on his journey home. Mine was a lot more sweet than bitter, but I could still totally relate to the clueless fascination he faced with those who had never left. The tale was well played and the characters were totally relatable and believable, even at their most ridiculous-seeming. This was a fun read with some life lessons snuck in (some subtly, some with the force of Punchout himself) for good measure...
A very Canadian story,set in small town Nova Scotia, but with universal themes everyone can relate to. Family estrangement and hockey culture lightly treated as a son tries to understand his father and himself. It was an enjoyable read.
So much more than a hockey story! Everyone can relate to leaving home, outrunning the past, and trying to build a life of one’s own... but at some point, we all return home. While fists are flying both on and off the ice, Hellard’s characters are vulnerable, and real enough to get choked up about. Funny, clever, sad, and wise. A top shelf debut novel!
To a suburban big-city boy geek like me, small town hockey life is exotic & curious at best, or just plain alien. But in this concise, stripped down, spartan story, this life manages to speak to me very effectively. A lot of heart, and a lot of wit...I liked it very much.
“What I didn’t know is that he now lives in the same rink they named after him, the same rink where he’s been driving the Zamboni since I was fifteen years old.”
Hockey or fatherhood? Self-discovery or reflection on childhood? Fame or correcting past mistakes? This quick read is full of topics, but packs so many in that it has a hard time nailing down a theme.
If you’ve read We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, this is sort of like the B-movie version of it. We find ourselves in a small town in Atlantic Canada (although yes, I know that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are worlds apart), but get just a taste of that Maritime ethos. Tyler Hellard trades in an opportunity to wash us with any Maritime slang, quirks, or characters in favour of… plot. You got it, cold, hard, plot.
Ostensibly, this book is about a son returning to his hometown to get to know his dad, who was once an NHL player and is now a small-town hero. We, the readers, get to know his dad through a series of interviews wherein we only see the dad’s responses. We’re left to fill in the gaps which is kind of cool… for the first little while. After that, it gets repetitive and loses is novelty. It’s a stylistic experiment but it is also the author’s only trick.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a hockey guy. But here’s the other thing: I’m not sure that hockey lovers will be guaranteed to love this either. We have a bit of hockey history sewn into the story but it isn’t powerful, uplifting, and conquering like a lot of books based around that sport (fiction or nonfiction). It’s not a hockey store like Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse. So don’t let the word hockey fool you, fellow Canucks. If you’re super into reunion stories, then perhaps this is the book for you.
In the end, it’s Tyler Hellard’s first novel. His biography says that he is a columnist, copywriter, and tech reviewer. And it’s clear. My recommendation as a humble reader: pick one topic and branch out into many themes. It makes for a novel that digs a bit deeper than the surface of the ice. We want to skate along with you… so sharpen our blades with a sold through-line and cohesion and complexity will result.
“None of these are the names our mothers gave us, but in our mothers’ defence, they didn’t know us very well when we were born.”
This book is really great. It's not a long read (I read it in two sittings) but it was entertaining and fun to read. It is firmly entrenched in the world of small-town Canada, small-town hockey, and the bruisers of the NHL from the 1970s and it captured all these elements perfectly.
It was also one of those books where I wasn't sure how it was going to end, or how I wanted it to end. Then when the ending came it wasn't at all what I was expecting but I thought it was great.
This is a terrific novel. Although it's set in the sports, and specifically hockey world (not my things, really), it is also much more than that. It's a well-written story about parents and children and failures and finally knowing the truth about one's family after years of making assumptions. Relatable but not predictable.