Badgers' Granato leads USA in the Olympics - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badgers' Granato leads USA in the Olympics

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MADISON (WKOW) -

Tony Granato's hockey career has come full circle in recent years. The former Badger returned to Madison to take over the men's hockey program. Now, he's following a similar path with Team USA. Granato is leading the Americans to South Korea 30 years after donning the red, white and blue as a player.

"Obviously, the Olympics are the Olympics. Once you get there and you're part of the celebration, you're wearing the red, white and blue every single day, that thrill and excitement will be back," Granato said before departing.

Granato was selected as the men's head coach for Team USA by his former Wisconsin and Olympic teammate Jim Johannson. This was a journey they were excited to share. However, the assistant executive director of USA Hockey and the general manager of the 2018 U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team died in his sleep on January 21st.

"We're going to be there, and we're going to turn and hope that he's right there with us," Granato said of his friend. "We're going to be, 'What would JJ do?'. That's going to be our whole approach the whole time through. We want to make him proud. This is his team. He was so excited about how he put it together and how much success he thought we could have. So, we want to follow through on that."

No NHL players will be used in this Olympics. So, Johannson and Granato had to get creative to find players. The scoured other pro leagues and the college ranks. Granato hadn't seen his entire team on the ice together before departing for South Korea. They'll have just a week to prepare for the opener against Slovenia.

"I'm very comfortable with the team we've put together in saying that we can have, we have a chance to be very successful."

Granato knows his group enters the games as underdogs to powerhouses such as Russia.

"They should be the favorite. They are because of what they've done. Can our team be the best for two weeks? Absolutely."

Granato points to his heroes as inspiration, the 1980 Miracle on Ice team that included former Badgers Mark Johnson and Bob Suter.
 
"Hopefully, we can represent us with the same energy and passion that that team did. Can it take us to a gold medal? I think so. "

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