How newest Shark Donato was shaped by NHL upbringing


New Sharks forward Ryan Donato has more life and hockey experiences than his 130 NHL games would suggest.

For starters, Donato was an Ivy Leaguer.

“Some people joke about it, and say it’s more of a surprise that I went to Harvard than anything,” Donato told NBC Sports California this week.

Donato's college hockey coach also was his father, Ted Donato, who played 13 NHL seasons and scored 119 goals in 528 career games.

Being the coach’s son always cultivates a unique experience.

“Because he’s going to make examples out of you,” Donato said. “He doesn’t always want to pick on anyone else.”

Donato, who was acquired by the Sharks from the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 5, was exposed to professional hockey from his earliest days and memories. He has long known the business side, having moved to new homes and towns more times than he can count. 

But it also put him in rare situations that most youth hockey players would dream of.

“I’m seeing guys and meeting guys like Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, the list could go on and on,” Donato said. “Guys I got to watch and know as a kid, that’s something special I hold close to me.”

There recently was an archive photo of Ryan as a child on the Boston bench alongside a young Joe Thornton that made the rounds. Unfortunately for Donato, he doesn’t recall that specific encounter, and now won’t get the chance to be a teammate of "Jumbo" in San Jose.


After three combined seasons with the Boston Bruins and Wild, Donato knows enough about this league to hopefully take the next steps in California.

“I realized how good things can go, and then go south real fast too," Donato said. “The games a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you’ll feel on top of the world and then the next, you’ll feel down, and you really can’t get like that because everything changes so fast.”

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Donato scored 14 goals in 62 games last season with Minnesota, and is expected to line up as a top six forward in San Jose.