EMERSON Etem believes it's an honour, not a burden, that he is rated the best ice hockey player ever to arrive on our shores.
The star Anaheim Ducks right winger, at just 22 and with only 67 NHL appearances, is rated even higher than the US captain for the current exhibition tour against Canada, Zenon Konopka.
Konopka has 346 caps in the NHL and even more stiches - that count was over 600 when he spoke to APN as part of the same stopconcussions.com tour last year.
"To have that tag placed on me is a real honour," Etem told APN before his US team plays its final two games of the tour in Melbourne tonight, and Sydney tomorrow night.
"There are lots of very talented guys who have come on this tour."
Etem was one of the standout players for the US in its 4-3 win over Canada at a packed Brisbane Entertainment Centre last Saturday night, bringing the series score to 2-1 in favour of the Canadians.
His electric speed on the ice, despite it being his first game back since the Ducks' loss in the second round of the Western Conference finals to eventual champions the LA Kings, back in May, had many people talking.
"I learnt to skate fast while rollerblading up the hills of Long Beach in California as a kid," Emerson said.
"It was a blast. I knew back then that someday I would be playing hockey for a living."
Etem inherited that confidence in his own ability from his mother Patricia, who rowed at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Etem's father Rick also rowed for the Naval Academy while in college.
"It was great to learn off Mum while growing up - she's been there and done it," Etem said.
"My brother and sister are also very good rowers."
Etem said players from both teams have taken this tour seriously, despite it only being five exhibition games.
"I can't wait to hop back on the ice in Melbourne and Sydney and ramp things up again," he said.
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