Hockey fans are likely more familiar with new Wolves coach Don Granato's sister Cammi and brother Tony.
Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
Don Granato never went as far as imagining himself in a suit and standing behind the Chicago Wolves' bench.
But when Granato made the frequent trip from his Chicago home to the Allstate Arena to scout games for the Toronto Maple Leafs the past few years, he did occasionally consider the coaching position.
"Going into games, and I mentioned this to Don (Levin), I would always have a thought, 'Boy, it'd be nice to coach here,'" said Granato, 40. "Then immediately I would say, 'You know what? Don't even think about it. You have a job to do. You have a job to do.'"
On Wednesday, that job became coaching the Wolves. At Harry Caray's in Chicago, Granato was named the sixth coach in franchise history.
A native of Downers Grove, Granato played at the University of Wisconsin, coached 11 seasons in the minors, was an assistant for a year with the St. Louis Blues and has been scout for Maple Leafs the past two years.
Granato's family name is one that is well-known throughout the Chicago area and hockey community.
His sister Cammi played on two U.S. Olympic medal winning women's hockey teams. His brother Tony is the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.
Granato's family was described as the "First family of Chicago hockey" during Wednesday's news conference.
"I think it's an exciting day for hockey in Chicago," Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "Obviously you just finished a very, very successful convention with the Blackhawks, tremendous notoriety through the summer months, tremendous feeling toward an up-and-coming National Hockey League team.
"And I think this announcement today brings another level of excitement because one of Chicago's own Donny Granato - born, raised, played hockey here - is now coaching one of the preeminent teams in the Chicago area."
Granato understands there are two professional hockey teams in Chicago, but the expectations for the minor-league one aren't any lower.
With the Wolves coming off a Calder Cup winning season and him being the replacement to John Anderson, who provided the organization with four championships and more than 600 wins in 11 seasons, Granato knows where the bar has been set.
"This is a great challenge; the expectations here are very high," he said. "That, to me, I've always had higher expectations of myself than anyone else. To come in here, I have to do my job. I believe in myself and my job and the job I do. That will be my focus."
Granato is familiar with winning. In his 11 season as a head coach in the minor leagues, only once, his first year, did one of his teams finish under .500.
In 2000, he coached the Peoria Rivermen to the ECHL's Kelly Cup. In 2001, he led the Worcester IceCats to their first AHL regular-season title with a franchise-record 48 wins and was named the league's coach of the year.
"He has a proven track record of developing young players," Cheveldayoff said. "He has a proven track record of winning championships. Everything he's done, he's done to the utmost extreme."
Granato's passion for the game also stood out to Cheveldayoff as he cut his list of possible candidates from 70 to one. It's a passion for hockey that only grew for Granato after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005.
"There were a lot of going through treatments and sitting around," Granato said. "You realize, boy, when you are healthy how important it is do what you're passionate about and do it a lot. That's why I'm back into it."
Wendell Young will remain as a Wolves assistant. A replacement will be found for Todd Nelson, who took a job with the Atlanta Thrashers alongside Anderson.