Ted Donato played high school hockey at Catholic Memorial in Massachusetts. In 1987-88, he enrolled at Harvard University and scored 26 points as an ECAC freshman. The following season, he scored 51 points. At the NCAA championships, he was named a Tournament All-Star as well as the Tournament MVP. In 1989-90, Donato scored 11 points in just 16 games. In 1990-91, he scored 56 points and paced the league with 37 assists. That year, he was named an ECAC First Team All-Star.
Donato was selected 98th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins. After the 1992 Winters Olympics, he made his NHL debut on March 8 against the Chicago Blackhawks and on March 14, scored his first NHL goal against the Quebec Nordiques. In ten regular season games, Donato scored three points and in the playoffs scored seven points in 15 games as the Bruins reached the Wales Conference finals before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 1992-93, Donato played 82 games as a rookie and scored 35 points as the team won the Adams Division season title. In 1993-94, he played all 84 games and scored 22 goals and 54 points and in the shortened 1994-95 season, Donato scored 20 points in 47 games while suiting up for TuTo Turku in the Finnish Elite League.
Donato played four more seasons in Beantown before he was dealt to the New York Islanders and then the Ottawa Senators early into 1998-99 season. During the off-season, Donato was traded yet again to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks where he played one season with the club.
In the summer of 2000, Donato signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars. After one season in the Lone Star state, Donato returned to the Islanders, and from there Los Angeles and St. Louis in 2001-02, while seeing some action in the AHL with Bridgeport Sound and Manchester.
After playing in five cities in 2001-02, Donato was yet a again on the move in 2002-03 splitting his time with New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate in Hartford. In the summer of 2003, Donato made a return to Beantown where it all began for the Harvard grad back in 1991-92. Upon his return to the Bruins, Donato went on to play 63 games with the club and another 15 games with the club's AHL affiliate in Providence before opting to call it a career at the end of the 2003-04 season.
Aside from his Olympic experience, Donato represented the U.S. at the World Junior Championships (1988) and the World Championships (1997, 1999 and 2002).
In the summer of 2004, Donato accepted the head-coaching job at Harvard University.