Word Association with Tony Granato

Former Kings’ forward Tony Granato, now an assistant coach in Pittsburgh, joined us earlier this week in anticipation of tonight’s game versus the Penguins.

In the first part of the interview we discussed his impressions of Dean Lombardi when he was being recruited by the San Jose Sharks in the summer of 1996. He also offered some thoughts on this year’s Kings team.

Below, we take on some more names from his past in one of the most popular segments here on MayorsManor – Word Association.

Here were his answers, plus a few bonus questions…

Tomas Sandstrom – warrior
Alex Zhitnik – skilled
Darryl Sydor – classy
Marty McSorley – crazy
Rob Blake – ultimate teammate
Luc Robitaille – tremendous human being
Jari Kurri – gifted
Charlie Huddy – gritty
Jimmy Carson – nifty
Kelly Hrudey – fun
Wayne Gretzky – greatest
Bernie Nichols – golf
Al Iafrate – the shot
Mike Ricci – no teeth

MM: Back to Gretzky for a moment, what do remember about your first encounter with him when you were traded to LA?

TG: Well, it was right around his birthday. I got to Vancouver before he did, he was playing in the NHL All Star game at the time – ironically, which was in Pittsburgh that year. I got to my room and found out I would be rooming with Wayne. I had met Wayne the previous summer at an event. So, when he walked in the door I just said hello. He said hello, welcomed me to the team and said how excited he was to have me as a teammate. Within seconds it felt like I had known him forever and was comfortable around him. It’s one thing I can say – he was a tremendous player, but he meant a lot to me away from the game too, the kind of person he was and the type of leader he was. I was lucky to have a pretty long run playing as his teammate and linemate with him for part of that era. You can look back and try to think of games and goals, but you remember the people you played with and your teammates and how hard they competed. What you remember about the people is really what you take away from the game.

MM: A name not on that list is Warren Rychel. He’s gone on to become a very successful General Manager and team owner in junior hockey. Looking back, is he somebody you would have ever imagined would go into the business side of hockey?

TG: He’s had a pretty incredible run with the two championships. He loves the game of hockey. He saw a great opportunity to take that team over (Windsor Spitfires of the OHL) at a great time and he’s taken full advantage of it. He did his homework and obviously has brought the right people in around him to support himself with the right staff. He knows what he’s doing to be as successful as he has been in such a short period of time. I don’t know if you would have asked me 15 years ago or back when we were playing together ‘Do you think Warren Rychel will be a GM or owner?’, there probably would have been other guys you would have picked first. But, you also look at the things Warren brought – that was a great work ethic and the passion he brought to the rink. So, you knew that was something he would carry over into his next challenge and that’s something he’s been able to do.

We have much more with Granato on a special edition of MayorsManor Live – where he talked in depth about key moments in his Kings career (including the 1993 playoffs), being hired and fired in Colorado, what it takes to be a coach in the NHL, Marcel Dionne, Tomas Sandstrom, Gretzky’s injury and much more.  Click here to give it a listen.

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John Hoven is a member of the of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and co-hosts Kings of the Podcast. He is also the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com, which has been named Best Sports Blog in Los Angeles by LA Weekly and Hockey Blog of the Year by Yahoo Sports. Click "ABOUT OUR TEAM" above for a full bio.