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Granato Will Come Back as a Shark

Hockey: Popular forward, who had brain surgery in February, will leave the Kings and make remarkable return to the ice with San Jose.

August 12, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tony Granato, who underwent brain surgery in February, is returning to the NHL but won't be playing for the Kings.

Granato, 32, recently received medical clearance from his doctors as well as from several other team physicians. Additionally, he went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and got doctors' approval there last week.

He will be joining former King goaltender Kelly Hrudey and former King center Bernie Nicholls in San Jose, sources said. Granato would not confirm the agreement with the Sharks, but said he made a trip there and was impressed by the organization's willingness to improve the product.

"I'm going elsewhere," Granato said on Sunday from his summer home in Madison, Wis. "When they [the Sharks] tried to sign Wayne [Gretzky], that's when they started coming hard after me. They've shown they're not going to stand to be mediocre. They've signed five free agents, and it's not often you can do that in a summer. Most teams only get one or two."

Granato has scored 30 or more goals four times in his eight seasons in the NHL, and the charismatic forward is one of the most popular athletes in the community since coming here in the 1989-90 season.

Granato did say that the Kings attempted to keep him.

"I felt it was time to make a change," he said. "The Kings tried until the end to get something done. So that was nice. It caught me by surprise. They tried pretty hard to get me back."

That Granato is returning to hockey is unprecedented. His doctors did not know of any such comeback to a high-contact sport after suffering an intracranial hematoma. Granato took a hard hit in a game at Hartford, Conn., on Jan. 25 and started having headaches and memory loss shortly thereafter.

Finally, he had surgery on Feb. 14 and it alleviated his condition but it seemed doubtful Granato would ever play hockey again. Even Granato, who is the father of four young children, thought his playing days were over.

"For him to be OK and to play is nothing short of a miracle," said Granato's agent Jeff Solomon.

Said Granato: "It's kind of weird. At first, when all the problems started. I didn't think I'd ever get another chance."

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