Win or lose, Alberta skip Laura Walker knows the biggest prize is waiting for her outside of Calgary’s WinSport curling sheets.
Her five-month-old son, Liam, is the lone baby in the curling bubble.
He likely won’t remember any of it, but his parents say it’ll be quite the story to tell him when he’s older.
“I’ll tell him he was on TV, probably more than either of his parents were, and just was a little bit of a star of the show,” Laura said with Liam on her lap and husband, Geoff, by her side.
“Hopefully, that his mom won the Scotties in the year that he was stuck in a hotel room,” Geoff added with a smile.
While Laura competes, stay-at-hotel dad Geoff takes the reigns.
After getting Liam through some restless nights, their days are now filled with naps, parking-lot walks, playtime, and of course, watching curling. Liam has even started to recognize his mom’s voice on TV.
It’s a routine the young family will settle into for up to nine weeks in total.
After the Scotties wrap, Geoff and the rest of Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador rink will reunite for the Brier, and potentially, the men’s world championship.
Then Laura and Geoff will team up for mixed doubles competition.
But wait — there’s more!
Both plan to compete in another pair of Grand Slam events later this spring.
Once all of the events wrap, Liam will have spent nearly a third of his young life in the hotel.
“By the time we leave, he could possibly be seven months already,” Geoff said. “There should be a lot of changes, little milestones and stuff.”
“He’ll be crawling. He’ll be eating more solid foods. He’ll be kind of using his hands better and just like playing very differently,” Laura added.
While many athletes have been dealing with the mental grind of bubble boredom, the Walkers are thankful to be kept busy.
The experience has also adjusted their mindsets as athletes.
“Having a kid definitely changes your perspective,” Laura said.
“You come back and I’ve got to keep him alive, whether I’m happy or sad or mad about what just happened up there on the ice, so I think you get over it a little bit quicker. That’s been the hardest part for me is just relearning what I can do with the time that I have and how I can manage everything here as both an athlete and a mom.”
For the Walkers, these are memories that will last a lifetime, and they hope the unusual living arrangement has brought as much joy to others as it has to them.