Born in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Tony Granato was chosen 120th overall by the New York Rangers in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. A star at Northwood Prep School, Granato went on to play four years at the University of Wisconsin where he was a two-time WCHA second team all-star and second team All-American. While at Winsconsin, Granato played for the United States at the 1983 and 1984 World Junior Championships and also represented his homeland at three straight World Championships beginning in 1985. In the summer of 1987, Granato committed to the US national team for the 1987-88 season and went on to represent his country at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Following the Olympic tournament Granato was assigned to the CHL's Colorado Flames.
In his first season in the NHL, the feisty right-winger scored 36 goals for the Rangers in 1988-89 and was named to the NHL all-rookie team. Halfway through the next season Granato was sent to the Los Angeles Kings along with Tomas Sandstrom for star centre Bernie Nicholls. As a King, Granato topped the 30-goal mark three times and helped the Kings reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in franchise history in 1993. A member of Team USA at the 1991 Canada Cup tournament, Granato played five seasons with the Kings before signing as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks in the summer of 1996.
Upon his arrival with the Sharks, Granato brought veteran leadership on one of the league's up-and-coming squads. However, prior to making his debut with the Sharks, Granato suffered serious head injury in the latter stages of his playing career with the Kings which forced him to have an operation to remove an abnormal collection of blood in the left temporal lobe of his brain. Granato returned to the ice in 1996-97 fully recovered and his dedication while coming back from this injury was acknowledged when he was presented the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Granato continued to supply leadership and savvy on the club until he retired in 2001.
In the summer of 2002 the Colorado Avalanche hired Granato as an Assistant Coach and only a few short months later, he was appointed head coach after the team dismissed Bob Hartley.