Players’ Category ~ Class of 2019
The Granato name is synonymous with hockey not just in Illinois, but wherever the sport is played around the world. Don just happens to be the latest ambassador. Born and raised in Downers Grove, he’s the third member of his family to be inducted in the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame. Younger sister Cammi, an Olympic gold medalist and Hockey Hall of Famer, was honored in 2005, while older brother Tony, an Olympic player, coach and NHL all-star, was inducted in 2006.
Don has blazed his own trail, contributing to a wide variety of championship cultures along the way. As a player, he won a state title at Burnsville (Minn.) High School and an NCAA championship ring at the University of Wisconsin. As a coach at the junior level, he directed Green Bay to the United States Hockey League title. As a coach at the pro level, he led Peoria (Ill.) to the Kelly Cup as champion of the East Coast Hockey League and was named American Hockey League Coach of the Year while overseeing Worcester (Mass.).
Don, 52, started out as a goaltender before discovering he had the speed and scoring touch to make it as a forward. He grew up video-taping hundreds of NHL games and pouring over the tiniest of details, which helps explain his highly regarded, innovative approach to teaching and tactics. He’s worked with three NHL teams as an assistant, including St. Louis, Chicago and now Buffalo. He’s worked with two NHL teams as a scout, including Toronto and Vancouver. He also served as an associate head coach alongside his brother Tony, now the head coach at Wisconsin.
If there’s a testament to Don’s handiwork, it was his nearly five-year stint as head coach of the prestigious U.S. National Team Developmental Program in Plymouth, Mich. He coached the under-17 and under-18 squads to world championships and helped develop the likes of current NHL standouts Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin, Clayton Keller, Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy.
You could make a case that Don has followed in the hall of fame footsteps of his brother and sister, but there’s ample evidence that his path is not only unique, but worth celebrating.
NOTES: The IHHF Induction Dinner will be held in their honour on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at the Belvedere Banquet Hall located at 1170 West Devon Avenue in Elk Grove Village beginning at 5:00 pm. Tickets are available by contacting Norm Spiegel at (847) 269-2922 or email Norm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining in honoring this special group of inductees will be several of the past inductees into the Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees, and all of the past inductees have demonstrated, through their actions over the years, their personal commitment in making a difference in the lives of thousands of Illinois youth and the Illinois hockey community.
The mission statement of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is as follows:
“To honor the excellence of those individuals who, through their exceptional endeavors both on and off the ice, have contributed in an extraordinary way to enhance the sport and image of hockey in Illinois.”
On behalf of everyone involved in the game of hockey, we admire and thank each of the inductees into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2019. They truly are in a class of their own.