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Sabres coach 'Donny Meatballs' promotes T-shirt for charity

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FILE - Buffalo Sabres head coach Don Granato gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, in this Saturday, May 8, 2021, file photo. Granato is embracing his “Donny Meatballs” nickname by having it splashed on a T-shirt to raise money for Mental Health America. Granato teamed up 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 shirt prominently features a plate of spaghetti topped with four meatballs amid the playful nickname he attracted after taking over as interim coach following Ralph Krueger’s dismissal in March. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

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.

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