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Shred that tweet; WNY is a host with the most

Kids these days. You can't live with them, you can't love Twitter without them.

Apparently, Buffalo isn't just a punch line for late-night television hosts or a cliche for national weather forecasters. The latest had an 18-year-old American hockey player who left his manners at home and ripped our city after it opened its arms to international amateur hockey.

Forward Emerson Etem unloaded this gem Monday on Twitter: "Buffalo is a ghost town!! The worst city ever, it makes Medicine Hat look like paradise, never thought ide say that."

Did he say ghost town or host town? Etem managed to offend two cities, not one. He was one snide remark about Moscow from recording the first hat trick in the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Buffalo isn't the prettiest or liveliest city in the world, but he's not allowed to say that. Only we're allowed to say that. And as long as Detroit, Newark and Beirut are around we'll never be lower than fourth-worst ever. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

Criticizing the host city wasn't the smartest decision. Send him to his bedroom without any dinner if you must. But let's not get our underwear in a bunch over an immature remark from a kid from Long Beach, Calif.

Etem, drafted 29th overall last June by Anaheim, presented himself as a friendly, accountable young man during his mea culpa Tuesday, a few hours before he scored a goal in Team USA's 6-1 win over Slovakia. Give him credit for not hiding from the media and using the lame "someone else tweeted with my cell phone" excuse like many so-called professionals before him.

He apologized, insisted he wasn't trying to offend anyone, and reminded the media how he won a national midget championship at the Northtown (nee: Pepsi) Center three years ago, when he was playing for Shattuck-St. Mary's. He mentioned how nice the region was in the spring. By the time he was finished, he was more deserving of a key to the city than, say, Terrell Owens.

"My point to get across was not to put down a great host city like this," he said. "I know a lot of people put a lot of time and effort to make this thing possible. For me, it's the middle of winter. People aren't out. It's really cold out. Not to put any cities down, it was a poorly written tweet on my part. I'm sorry [to] the Buffalonians and the Medicine Hat people who took it the wrong way."

Western New York is a tad touchy, which Etem learned the hard way when he was booed Tuesday. It was classless. Really, if we were punished for every silly thing we said when we were 18, somebody would lock us up and throw away the key. Heck, I probably made a dozen regrettable comments before lunch Tuesday.

"He's a young kid and a really good kid and has great character," USA coach Keith Allain said. "We've all made mistakes."

Satisfied? Onward.

The best way to assess Buffalo this week isn't from an undeveloped waterfront, eternally planning an international bridge, skeletal remains from a casino, the gray skies above or the view below of quiet streets Etem had from his hotel window. What matters most is how our cold city with warm people has embraced the world juniors.

Pardon me for coming off like a homer -- guilty! -- but so far it looks like a success for everyone involved. It could be worse. Buffalo could be caught in a mild snowstorm that passes for a blizzard in other soft hockey outposts, such as Philadelphia. C'mon, people. We grow flowers in that stuff.

Other than a few snags ushering people into the building for games involving Canada, the first three days have been terrific. There was more energy in HSBC Arena for games involving the U.S. and Canada than there has been all year. Niagara University proved to be what USA Hockey had hoped when it selected Buffalo. It's a small but charming venue, ideal for games involving teams such as Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

"It's done amazing," Allain said. "The support has been tremendous. This is my fourth world junior, and this is by far the best experience we've had."

Aw, shucks, really?

Darcy Regier would be impressed if he were here rather than in Edmonton with the Sabres for reasons that left several NHL executives dumbfounded Tuesday. Other GMs saw firsthand how many prospects have played at very high levels.

Sabres fans who had their first glimpse of Marcus Foligno watched a young player on the rise. He's big, aggressive, smart and skilled. He hasn't played an NHL game but carries himself like a pro away from the ice. At the moment, he might be more equipped for the NHL than former first-round pick Zack Kassian.

Kassian on Tuesday was ejected from Canada's 7-2 victory over the Czech Republic for a hit to the head of Petr Senkerik that was reminiscent of a check for which he was suspended from the OHL last season.

Canada was tested by Russia for two periods before pulling away in the third in its first game. The U.S. had all it could handle from Finland before the Yanks won in overtime. Slovakia goalie Dominik Riecicky made 47 saves in a win over Germany.

Without getting ahead of ourselves, the two border countries were on track for the gold-medal game. If you're pulling for the U.S., you're pulling for Etem, not than booing him. The kid will learn soon enough that Buffalo isn't a ghost town but a terrific host town that comes alive for hockey.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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