BUFFALO -- American forward Emerson Etem apologized Tuesday morning for his remarks calling Buffalo a “ghost town” and “the worst city ever” in a Tweet posted on his account on Monday afternoon.
The entry was deleted later, but not before causing a furor in the local media.
“My point to get across was not to put down a great host city like this – I know a lot of people put in time and effort to make this [tournament] possible,” the 18-year-old Anaheim Ducks prospect said. “For me it’s the middle of winter and people aren’t out. It’s really cold outside so, like I said, the point for me was not to put down Buffalo.”
Etem answered questions about the Tweet from a handful of media after U.S. practice on Tuesday morning, before a team official shouted that he would only be taking "hockey questions."
In fewer than 140 characters, the winger who plays with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers said Buffalo made the Alberta town of 61,000 look like a “paradise” in comparison.
“It was a poorly written Tweet by me, I meant bad conditions,” explained Etem, who hails from Long Beach, Calif. “I came from Medicine Hat… it was warm out and then I come here and not a lot of people are out and it’s expected – it’s the middle of winter.”
But Etem isn’t the only one to have harsh words for the Western New York city. In a blog post on hockeysverige.se Swedish journalist Uffe Bodin compared Buffalo to falling into a scene from the horror movie ‘28 Day Later’, “minus all the zombies.” The headline of the piece – a quote from a Finnish journalist – “The city is a [crap] hole” was even less flattering.
Etem said he had been to Buffalo previously – in the spring – three years ago for a national midget tournament in Amherst and said he’d enjoyed his stay. Between Monday at 5 p.m., roughly when the comments were posted and Tuesday afternoon, Etem had gained more than 250 followers. It also spurred the hash-tag, #EmersonEtemProblems, a takeoff on the popular #DanEllisProblems which was prompted by comments made by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis complaining about NHLers losing money to escrow. Many followers on Twitter turned on Ellis and he eventually closed down his account citing the distraction the story was becoming to the team.
Team USA head coach Keith Allain, backed Etem, chalking the comments up to the folly of youth.
“He’s a young kid and he’s a really good kid,” Allain said. “He’s got great character and we’ve all made mistakes.”
When asked what he thought of Twitter, the 52-year-old coach said he didn’t know enough about the medium to have an opinion. He did however say he and his family had been enjoying the city and the hospitality.
“I love Buffalo,” he said. “My wife and family have come, they’ve enjoyed it tremendously, they’ve gone to see Niagara Falls and I think we’d like to come back in the summer time.”
It’s unclear whether Etem would continue Tweeting, or shutdown his account, but he was definitely contrite in his words to the media gathered after U.S. practice on Tuesday.
“It’s a great historic town for sports and I realize that,” Etem said. “I’m sorry for the confusion and I just want to move on.”
Sunaya Sapurji is the Junior Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org