For­mer Sharks All-Star Granato has strong bond with Pavel­ski

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - Ross McKeon is a free­lance writer. Twit­ter: @rossm­ck­eon

The NHL All-Star Game comes to San Jose at the end of next month. And while the ex­hi­bi­tion has mor­phed into noth­ing more than a shiny game played by a bunch of mil­lion­aires, the event has pro­duced mem­o­rable mo­ments along the way. Home­town hero Owen Nolan called his shot by point­ing to a cor­ner of the goal and beat East goalie Do­minik Hasek to cap a hat trick in 1997, the first and only other time the All-Star Game has been con­tested in the South Bay.

But there was an­other Sharks’ side­bar to the game worth re­vis­it­ing to­day. For­ward

Tony Granato had signed with San Jose be­fore the 1996-97 sea­son in a come­back from a se­ri­ous head in­jury. On the way to scor­ing 25 goals at age 32, Granato was a late add to the West roster by Com­mis­sioner

Gary Bettman fol­low­ing a in­jury to an­other player.

In ad­di­tion to mak­ing his lone All-Star ap­pear­ance, Granato ful­filled a dream by tak­ing the open­ing face­off against ex-team­mate and close friend Wayne Gret­zky, who was a New York Ranger at the time. It was only a year ear­lier — while at­tend­ing a Su­per Bowl party at Gret­zky’s home with other Los An­ge­les Kings team­mates — that Granato needed to be rushed to the hos­pi­tal for emer­gency brain surgery as a re­sult of a hit sev­eral days ear­lier.

Granato in turn won the 1996-97 Master­ton Tro­phy for per­se­ver­ance, sports­man­ship and ded­i­ca­tion to hockey, the first of only a hand­ful of ma­jor hon­ors won by the Sharks. Fol­low­ing his 13-year ca­reer, Granato was the head coach in Colorado and was an as­sis­tant in Pitts­burgh and Detroit. In ad­di­tion to coach­ing the U.S. men in last win­ter’s Olympics, Granato is in his third sea­son as head coach at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, his alma mater.

Granato also keeps his eye on an­other ac­com­plished Badgers prod­uct — Sharks cap­tain

Joe Pavel­ski, who with a team-high 18 goals be­fore the week­end ap­pears a strong can­di­date for next month’s All-Star Game.

“He is what he is, the All Amer­i­can Joe,” Granato said. “He just does ev­ery­thing right.”

Pavel­ski, 34, played two sea­sons for Wis­con­sin, help­ing the Badgers win the 2006 NCAA ti­tle. A sev­enth-round draft pick by San Jose in 2003, Pavel­ski left school to em­bark on an out­stand­ing pro ca­reer.

Pavel­ski has not for­got­ten his col­le­giate roots. He trains each sum­mer at the univer­sity, and spends all the time Granato asks of him talk­ing to re­cruits or cur­rent play­ers.

“What it does for our pro­gram — whether we’re bring­ing re­cruits through or our kids are here for the sum­mer — they see how an NHL guy trains and they un­der­stand why Joe Pavel­ski has that com­pet­i­tive spirit and con­tin­ues to pro­duce at that top level,” Granato said.

Here’s an idea: If there’s a late scratch by a se­lected player, the league couldn’t go wrong by adding Joe Thorn­ton to next month’s All-Star Game West roster. And they could do like­wise with Toronto’s Pa­trick

Mar­leau in the East. Wouldn’t that be a hoot for Sharks’ fans?

Golden touch: The Golden Knights are 8-2 since Nate

Schmidt re­turned to the lineup. The de­fense­man was sus­pended for the first 20 games — with­out pay — for tak­ing a banned sub­stance. He pas­sion­ately de­nied do­ing so know­ingly and was sup­ported by ev­ery­one who knows him well.

Briefly:

Yes, the Seat­tle fran­chise will op­er­ate un­der the same ex­pan­sion draft rules as Ve­gas, which means the Sharks will have pro­tec­tion de­ci­sions to make in ad­vance of 2021. … In spite of re­cent com­ments from their gen­eral man­ager re­gard­ing a pos­si­ble roster shake-up, the Pen­guins have ral­lied out of last place by win­ning four of their past six. … And it just has to be sug­gested: Fly­ers mas­cot Gritty for pres­i­dent.

Josie Lepe / As­so­ci­ated Press

Joe Pavel­ski leads the Sharks with 18 goals and seems a strong can­di­date to make this year’s All-Star Game in San Jose.

NHL / 1997

Tony Granato’s ap­pear­ance at the 1997 All-Star Game in San Jose was in­spi­ra­tional.

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