LOS ANGELES – When Wild winger Nino Niederreiter studies the schedule for a season, he looks at when the team will travel to Philadelphia.
His reason for searching out this date on the calendar, however, has nothing to do with hockey.
Niederreiter wants to know when he can sink his teeth into a slab of beef from a steakhouse named Barclay Prime.
“We can’t wait to go there,” he said.
More than halfway through a franchise-record seven consecutive road games, Wild players have been reacquainted with life out of a suitcase barely a month into the season.
And while being away from home can present challenges, from not having last change in games to losing out on sleep while flying into the early-morning hours to the next city, dining at some of the finest restaurants in North America is a perk players embrace.
“Not many people get to do that as much as we do,” forward Charlie Coyle said. “It’s really nice to be able to do that, so you feel fortunate.”
Building a Rolodex of go-to eateries is a rite of passage in the NHL.
Although some might do research on their own, most players start to figure out their spots by quizzing teammates.
“You’re kind of looking for a veteran to hold your hand and bring you places,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “And also pick up the bill.”
Players tend to dine in packs; a group text message goes out detailing the night’s pick and when to meet in the hotel lobby to depart for dinner.
With the Wild, six to eight in a party is common and the menu is typically one of three cuisines — steak, Italian or sushi. And players have their preferences for each.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk’s favorite steak is at Nick and Sam’s in Dallas. Foligno likes Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C.
And Miku in Vancouver is where Coyle — who is a sushi fanatic — gets his fill when the Wild visits the Canucks.
“I try to get it as much as I can,” said Coyle, who — despite being from the Boston area — didn’t try seafood until he moved to Minnesota.
Since they’re usually fueling up for an upcoming game, players are mindful of what they’re eating. But they’re also not afraid to occasionally indulge.
“It’s not like you’re going to get dessert every single night,” Niederreiter said.
“But some nights you feel like it. You look at it and some dessert smiles at you, and you have to take it.”
The group also savors the conversation with teammates.
When they’re in the Twin Cities, everyone tends to spend nongame nights with family and the players with wives and children rarely eat out.
Winger Zach Parise has a chef come in at the beginning of the week to prep meals that he and his wife Alisha can finish off when it’s time to eat.
Dubnyk’s trainer also sends over soups every few months that he can heat up; otherwise his wife, Jennifer, crafts the night’s menu. Same with Foligno’s wife, Natascia, who serves up Italian dishes such as chicken Parmesan and lasagna.
“I think after my playing career I’ll be a little bigger than I am now,” Foligno said.
But on the road, players bond over meals. And they always order a side of camaraderie.
“Hockey’s always going to be a subject of discussion at the table,” Foligno said. “But you kind of just get to know each other — their hobbies, what they do in the summer time, where guys go and live. That’s what you want.
“It’s a nice time to get away from hockey, too, and just sit and have a meal and enjoy two hours with each other.”