LOS ANGELES – Cam Talbot has been a regular at Staples Center over the past few years, frequently taking on the Kings as a Pacific Division rival with the Oilers and then the Flames.
But Talbot experienced a first upon his return to Los Angeles with the Wild — a crowd-less L.A. Live, the entertainment district next to the arena.
"It's kind of an eerie feeling walking through the lobby on the way here," Talbot said during a video interview ahead of the team's first game. "It's just weird not having anybody around."
The rules on the road are different this season, and Wild players and coaches experienced those changes Wednesday when they arrived in California for their season-opening, four-game road trip in Los Angeles and Anaheim.
As part of the NHL's safety protocols for the season, teams are limited to the hotel, arena, and practice rink during road trips. The team didn't have dinner as a group Wednesday night; instead, players and coaches ate in their respective rooms. Same goes for breakfast and the pregame meal.
At the arena, barricades and plexiglass were set up in the coaches' quarters and the game card was filled out electronically.
Coach Dean Evason wore a mask behind the bench, a change from the bubble.
"The players are definitely going to have to pay attention, and we're probably going to have to speak a little bit louder," Evason said.
While a few teams (Arizona, Dallas and Florida) are starting the season with some fans in attendance, the majority of arenas will be mostly empty — a throwback to the vibe from the bubble playoffs.
"I don't think you can ever really get used to it," winger Ryan Hartman said. "I don't think anyone was really used to it in the bubble, either, but it is one of those things. The whistles are clearer. You can hear guys talking. Obviously, we're looking forward to having fans back, but not sure when that's going to be. But once they are able to come back, it's going to be awesome."
Since the final game on the trip isn't until next Wednesday against the Ducks, the Wild will have plenty of downtime at the hotel before the team returns home.
Hartman brought a book and video games to stay busy. Talbot opted for more sweatpants and less jeans.
"You can't really go anywhere, so it's just comfy clothes and stuff to keep you entertained in the room," Talbot said. "I don't usually do a whole lot, so it's just Netflix and kind of recovery and keep my body ready to go. You can't go out and do anything. Just keeping your body moving is the most crucial thing. Especially on the road, you don't want to be sitting in your bed for 12 hours a day. Just stuff to keep you occupied."
Talbot brought both of his goalie masks on the trip to determine which one he wants to wear at home vs. on the road.
Each has a different design, but they both have the same theme: "Ghostbusters."
"My artist has been Dave Gunnerson for every year but one as a pro," Talbot said. "He came up with the 'Ghostbusters' theme when I was in New York, and he's always wanted to do one for a goalie that played in New York. It obviously makes a little bit more sense, being that's where the movie was filmed.
"Once my first mask came out, everyone loved it and it became kind of my M.O. Everywhere that I've gone people have been tweeting at me and sending messages that I had to bring 'Ghostbusters' here and here and here. It's kind of taken on a life of its own. It's my identity now on my mask."
Winger Mats Zuccarello (arm) didn't accompany the Wild on the trip and will continue to skate in Minnesota.