When Emerson Etem made his NHL debut Tuesday night in San Jose, it was more than just a seminal moment in the 20-year-old’s life. Etem, a native of Long Beach, became just the 13th player in NHL history born and trained in Southern California to appear in an NHL game. (Nine of those 13, incidentally, have come since 2005-06.
Even before that debut, Ducks fans have been intrigued by Etem (partly because of his SoCal roots) since he was nabbed 29th overall by Anaheim in during the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles. (I remember being in Staples Center that night and high-fiving a co-worker next to me as soon as Ducks GM Bob Murray announced the pick with the words, “From Long Beach, California…”)
We already know a lot about Etem, but here’s a little more, courtesy of a chat I had with him following practice Wednesday afternoon, and just before he’d sign hundreds of autographs for season ticket holders at the annual Face-Off Fest event.
First off, who’s your Super Bowl pick? I’m gonna go with the Ravens. I’m a Raiders fan, so I can’t cheer for a team right across the Bay.
How did you grow up a Raiders fan? When they were in LA when I was a kid, I rooted for them. I know they haven’t been here for awhile, but I still root for them.
Last movie you saw? Gangster Squad. Fantastic. Great acting.
What’s your pick for the Oscars? I saw Zero Dark Thirty, which I assume is nominated. It was alright, kind of slow. What else is up for it?
Mmm, Lincoln? Oh yeah, I saw that. That was good. I’ll pick that.
If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be? Is Barack Obama a celebrity?
Definitely. Well, he’s the president. He’s the leader of the world, so I could learn a lot from him.
So you’re going to have to win a Cup in the next four years. That’s one way to meet him. Yeah, I guess so. I’ll take that for sure.
Your celebrity crush. Not Barack Obama, right? [Laughs] No, no. Charlize Theron.
What music do you listen to? Lots of reggae. Rebelution, SOJA, Iration. [Note: I had to Google the spelling of all three of those.]
Have you always listened to reggae? Yeah, for sure. I started out with Sublime, since they’re from Long Beach. I was into ska and reggae from the start.
What’s something on your iPod that you’re embarrassed about? I’m not a huge fan of country, and somehow I have that "Chicken Fried" song on there from way back.
You gave in and downloaded that one? Yeah. [Laughs.] Now that you bring it up, I’ve got to get that one off there.
What’s a TV show you can’t live without? I’m watching Workaholics right now. That’s my go-to right now. That’s really funny. They just started a new season.
Favorite restaurants? Nick’s Burritos in Seal Beach, for sure. Mexican food is my favorite, so SuperMex, Taco Surf, places like that are my favorite.
Anything fancier than that? Not really. That’s probably as fancy as it gets for me.
What’s something you refuse to eat? I eat pretty much … actually, brussel sprouts I hate.
What’s your go-to karaoke song? I’m terrible with lyrics, so…
Well, they’re written out for you on the TV screen. Yeah, I know, but even still. [Laughs.] Actually, Smith-Pelly knows I struggle with lyrics too, so there’s this rapper named Chief Keef [again, I had to Google], and he put the lyrics on the screen for me in the hotel room the other day, and even as the song was going, I was reading the lyrics and still messing up. I’m terrible.
What superstitions do you have before a game? I put all my equipment on from left to right. So, left skate before my right, shin pad, so on and so forth.
What’s the best thing about being a pro athlete? It’s early on, but the treatment is good. Everyone is so nice and respectful. Everyone likes to have fun, and everyone likes to win. The travel is a lot easier. I’d much rather take the plane than ride the bus.
Did you have long bus rides in juniors? Yeah, one was 33 hours, from Medicine Hat [in southeast Alberta] to Portland [Oregon]. That was a long one. We broke it up on the way there, but on the way back it was straight through. That was a rough one.