BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — There’s no bib required to protect this shirt.
Buffalo Sabres coach Don Granato is embracing his “Donny Meatballs” nickname by having it splashed on a T-shirt to raise money for the nonprofit organization Mental Health America.
Granato teamed with Buffalo-based Pasteurized Tees to create a Sabres’ blue and gold-colored T-shirt design, which went on sale this week to coincide with the start of training camp. The design features a plate of spaghetti topped with five meatballs, a nod to the playful nickname Granato got after taking over as interim coach following Ralph Krueger’s dismissal in March.
First coined by a local blogger, the nickname stuck and became popular on social media.
Upon announcing Granato’s hiring on a full-time basis in June, the Sabres released a video showing a plate of meatballs on a table along with a nameplate displaying Granato’s title being changed from interim to head coach.
“I am excited to embrace this nickname for a good cause and support of our community,” Granato said in a statement. “My hope is to take this fan-created nickname a step further by finding ways to give back.”
The 54-year-old Granato is of Italian heritage and grew up in Illinois as part of a noted hockey family.
His brother Tony played 13 NHL seasons and is currently the head coach at Wisconsin, while his sister Cammi is a two-time Olympian, the first female Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and a scout for the NHL expansion team Seattle Kraken.
Don Granato is a first-time NHL coach who has a reputation for developing players at the minor league levels.