That includes taking a week off.
Walker, the lead on Brad Gushue’s Brier champion Newfoundland and Labrador curling rink, won’t compete with his teammates in the Princess Auto Elite 10, a Pitney’s Grand Slam event beginning in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., today. Instead, he’ll work on recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered during the Brier last week and to be as healthy as possible when they play for the first time as Team Canada at the world men’s curling championship beginning in Edmonton on April 1.
“I’m basically going from hometown to hometown,” said Walker, a 31-year-old native of Beaverlodge, Alta., in the Peace River area just west of Grande Prairie.
“So I want to be at my best.”
Or at least better than he was the last few days of the Tim Hortons Brier.
Walker injured his shoulder exactly a week ago, on the second-last day of the Brier round-robin, in the 10th end of what turned out to be an extra-end win over Kevin Koe and his 2016 Brier champs.
“I knew something wasn’t right, but at that point, I don’t think I knew how much it might have been hurt,” said Walker.
He got through most of Newfoundland’s final round-robin game against Nova Scotia Friday morning, but felt something “tweak” in the late going. By the time the Gushue rink dispatched Manitoba’s Mike McEwen in the Page 1-2 playoff that same night, he was glad for the resulting day off before Sunday’s Brier final.
The injury left him pretty much a non-factor as a sweeper — third Mark Nichols had to take up much of the slack in that department— although the right-handed Walker had little trouble throwing a rock.
“It only hurts when I mimic the sweeping motion, I guess because that is how I was injured,” he said after he, Gushue, Nichols and second Brett Gallant downed Koe in the Sunday rematch that was the Brier final.
Walker describes his injury as a strain — “We don’t think there’s a tear” — and says he feels noticeably better after physiotherapy.
Besides the physical recovery that he and his teammates require — Gushue, for example, has that chronic hip problem he’s been dealing with all season — the team must also find a way to rather quickly recover mentally after the drain that was a long-sought and hard-fought Brier win so as to be at its best for the worlds.
This week’s Grand Slam event should help as a bridge over that barrier, at least for the other three members of the Gushue team. But Walker has plenty of motivation anyway since the world championship is in his home province.
“I’m super excited by that. There will be a lot of family and friends from the Peace region and there should be a lot of Newfoundlanders, too, and of course we’re in Canada as Team Canada,” said Walker, who moved to Newfoundland to curl with Gushue six years ago.
“We’ll have lots of support.”
He also noted the world curling championship is the last scheduled sporting event for Rexall Place (Northlands Coliseum). A fine hockey player before turning to curling full time, Walker is a big a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, who once played out that building.
“It would be awesome wherever it was being held, in whatever country, but because it’s in Edmonton,” it will be extra special for me.”
Filling in for Walker in Port Hawkesbury will be Tom Sallows, a former junior teammate.
The 33-year-old Sallows, who is from Grande Prairie, was with the Gushue team at the Brier last week, and although he has made a specialty of being a fifth at big events, couldn’t fill the role in St. John’s for the Canadian championship, since he was not from Newfoundland.
However, he will be the team’s fifth in Edmonton.
Sallows was the fifth man for the Pat Simmons/John Morris Alberta rink that won the 2015 Brier and finished third at the worlds the same year.
There will be another Newfoundlander competing in the Elite 10.
Harbour Grace native Jamie Korab, who won an Olympic gold medal with Gushue and Nichols in 2006, will be part of a “Select” team in Port Hawkesbury, with Jeff Stoughton as skip, David Nedohin as third, Korab at second and Nolan Thiessen at lead.
The Selects’ first game is tonight against Gushue and Co., who open their schedule this morning against Reid Carruthers of Manitoba.
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Geoff Walker is a man who calls two provinces home. And after winning a championship in one, he’s going to do everything he can to capture a second title in the other.
That includes taking a week off.