About 40 years ago, Don Granato was in the car with his family on the way to watch a Wisconsin hockey game. His brother, Tony, was attending Northwood Prep in Lake Placid, N.Y., and considering playing for the Badgers in college. So the family took a trip to check out the school.
Don, three years younger than Tony, remembers walking into the rink filled with 8,000 screaming fans. He remembers the band playing and the future NHLers like Chris Chelios skating around the ice. He decided then what he wanted his hockey future to look like.
“I want to play here and I want to score in this building,” Granato remembers thinking.
That last part is significant because Granato was still a goalie at the time. Later that year, he would start the transition to playing forward. He got sick of sharing ice time with another goalie and wanted to play. He kept bugging his coach to play forward on the days he wasn’t starting in net. It took a bunch of injuries for his coach to finally agree. After seeing what Granato did as a forward, his coach told him he could skate out whenever he wanted.
Once Granato got a taste of Wisconsin hockey, he knew he wanted to skate out permanently and he wanted to do it with that W on his chest. That became his singular goal. Granato is now 55 and entering his second full season as the coach of the Buffalo Sabres. His hockey journey has been a winding one with nine coaching stops before this one in five different leagues.