Brady and Lizz Lamb had it all planned out.
Brady, a former Minnesota Duluth standout, would finish the hockey season as a defenseman in Germany's top professional league, hopefully with a long playoff run. Then the couple and newborn son, Callaghan, would spend the offseason split between Brady's family in Calgary, Alberta, and Lizz's family in Minnesota.
But the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.
After a long, ongoing journey across two continents, Brady, Lizz and Callaghan are in a holding pattern in Calgary, waiting for the border to fully open so they can visit Minnesota as a family.
That goal took a hit May 19, with the announcement that the U.S.-Canada border would remain closed to nonessential travel until at least June 21.
"When that news came out of it being extended for another month, I had a pretty tough night," said Lizz, who had planned a June 6 baptism for Callaghan while the trio visited her parents, Bruce and Sue Downey of Eagan. "It's one thing if it's just Brady and I, but it's another thing when you've got a new kid, the first grandkid."
Brady helped UMD win its first NCAA championship in 2011 by assisting on all three Bulldogs goals in a 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan in the title game. But he's a Canadian citizen, so his travel to the United States would not be deemed essential.
"I know Lizz is homesick and feeling it pretty heavy," he said, "trying to get Cal there to meet everybody."
The journey begins
The swift changes to the sports world brought on by COVID-19 hit German hockey on March 10, when the Deutsch Elite League playoffs were canceled. Immediately, Brady's team — the Augsburger Panther — started booking flights home for its import players.
One issue for the Lambs: They were waiting on the U.S. passport for Callaghan, who was born in early February, before they could travel.
"We started talking to the U.S. Consulate and the embassy, trying to figure out how soon we were going to get this passport," said Lizz, who met Brady at Minnesota Duluth. "First, they told us a couple days, then they told us a week. Then they said because of COVID they really didn't have any idea."
With flights out of Germany becoming scarce, the Lambs got word that Callaghan's passport would arrive at the U.S. Consulate in Munich on March 18. After a one-hour drive, Lizz was told by an officer the passport wasn't there. Tense moments followed before she got in contact with the agent with whom she'd been working. Finally, the passport materialized.
Two days later, Brady, Lizz, Callaghan and Brady's parents, Marvin and Darcy — who had traveled to Augsburg to meet Cal and watch Brady play — boarded a flight from Munich to Toronto.
"Our flight was so empty," Lizz said. "The flight attendants told us that that morning most of them had been laid off and still had to work the flight. We were on one of the last [flights] from Europe to Canada."
Back in Canada
Brady and Lizz have been staying at Brady's parents' house in Calgary, waiting to close on their own home. They had plans to get to Minnesota for Easter, but the pandemic changed that, too.
Meanwhile, Brady, 31, has found a way to train despite gyms in Canada being closed.
"As soon as we got home, I went online and ordered gym equipment, which of course everyone in the world was doing, so we're still waiting for that to show up," he said.
Instead, he moved his parents' treadmill to their garage and got a hand-me-down squat rack from his sister. "It's enough to get by," he said. "It's not great, but enough to stay even with the calorie intake."
After leaving UMD, where he and Lizz met, Brady spent two seasons with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL before former Bulldogs teammate Mike Connolly helped lure him to Augsburg.
"I thought I'd go there for a year, travel the world a bit and play some hockey along the way and that might be it. Seven years later, here we are," said Brady, who was elevated to captain of the Panther late in the season.
Brady isn't sure when the German season will begin but knows it won't be on time. "We were supposed to go back Aug. 4," he said.
For now, Brady and Lizz just want to get to Minnesota, where they were married last summer and where they want to introduce Callaghan, whose name was inspired by Miracle on Ice defenseman Jack O'Callahan.
"One day you're up on this high, laughing and loving all these experiences together," Lizz said. "The next minute, you're FaceTiming your mom and realizing how much you miss her. There are so many different feelings and emotions that come with it, but I know that there are a lot of people who have it much, much worse than us, so you feel thankful."
Added Brady: "Whenever you book these trips to go see Lizz's family or a boys weekend for golfing, you look at the price tag and go, 'Ah, can I really justify it? Is it worth X amount of dollars?' Now, the amount of money we'd spend to get down to Minnesota would be ridiculous. … It's so important to get that time together."