All in the family
All in the family
Sibling rivalry sparked USA coach Granato's career
"We certainly have the passion for it," Granato said during a break at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
He is one of six siblings, four of whom grew up playing hockey against each other. His brother Tony, a former NHL player, is in his fourth season on the Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff. Sister Cammi is a founding member of the US national women's team and won Olympic gold in 1998. She also made history in 2010 by becoming one of the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The hockey-mad Granato siblings get along now, but when they were growing up, the rivalry would constantly create tension, according to Granato.
"We love each other more now. But when we were kids, we were always pounding off each other. There was always rivalry. There were four of us who always played hockey. It was always Tony and Cammi against me and Robbie, in the basement, in the yard, on the ice. The games would always end with somebody crying, often including me."
The focus for them was not technique or scoring goals. "The big thing for us was winning, because that's what you could brag about. There was nothing sweeter than winning and that’s why I like coaching. It’s all about winning."
Granato’s coaching career started with a "lucky opportunity", as he calls it. He played professionally in the minor leagues from 1991 to 1993 and ran summer schools. The father of one youngster he was coaching bought a hockey team and asked Granato to run it. "It was too good an opportunity to pass up. If that hadn't happened I would have gone back to play the minor leagues for a third year."
The offer meant Granato was able to start up his own team, the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League and he won the league title twice.
Granato then successfully coached several clubs, including from 2000 to 2005 the Worcester IceCats, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s St Louis Blues, where he became the winningest coach in franchise history. He also received the Louis A R Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year and eventually ended up at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, where he is now in his second season.
A good coach, besides being obsessed with victory, has to be a good communicator, Granato said.
"Communication skills with the players, individually as well as collectively, are very important, especially with young players like this."
Is it ever a struggle to deal with teenage boys?
"No," says Granato, who does not have children of his own. "It's more enjoyable than anything. They're fun to be around and at a fun age."
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