The Next Chapter

Tyler Hellard's Searching for Terry Punchout is an ode to hockey, small towns and facing your past

The author discusses his new book, which is a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
Searching for Terry Punchout is a novel by Tyler Hellard. (Monique St. Croix, Invisible Publishing)

Tyler Hellard is from a small town and is intimately familiar with what that experience is like. It's something he explores in his debut novel Searching for Terry Punchout, a story about hockey, small town life and a down-on-his-luck sports journalist named Adam Macallister.

The book is shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Hellard spoke with The Next Chapter about writing Searching for Terry Punchout.

Father and son reunion

"Adam Macallister is trying to be a sportswriter, but he's limited to doing things like covering high school volleyball. The book takes place in 2006, so newspapers are laying people off and he loses his job. 

"His dad is an infamous hockey player who's disappeared from the limelight and Adam hasn't really talked to him for over a decade. In order to save his career, he goes back and reconnects and convinces his dad that he should write about him to pull him out of obscurity while saving his own career."

Looking back on his own small town experience

"There's not a lot that's more Canadian than hockey, especially if you grew up in a small town. If you play hockey in a small town, it does become part of your identity. It was something that I thought a lot of people could relate to. I personally ran away from my small town and I blamed this town for a lot of the things that I was unhappy with. I didn't think very highly of the town or the people in it, which was awful. It took me years to figure out that the problem was me. It wasn't growing up in that town that I didn't like. I didn't like being 14.

"The character Adam has to go on a journey to understand who he is. He spent a lot of time running away from a town and blaming the town for his problems. And only when he's left with no options and has to go back to the town does he start to realize that the town's fine and the people in it are good people. He realizes the community they've built for themselves — and the community that he can re-enter — is something that he's missing in his life."

Tyler Hellard's comments have been edited for length and clarity.