HINGHAM, Mass. -- When asked to describe his father, the first words out of Kevin Granantino’s mouth were “a townie.”
Joe Granatino died at age 51 on Christmas Eve of 2010. He was born and raised in Hingham and gave generously to the youth sports programs of his hometown with his time, volunteering to coach Kevin’s teams in both baseball and hockey until the time he reached high school.
Months have come and gone since his father’s passing and Kevin, a senior goaltender on Hingham’s hockey team, has settled into a ritual of sorts. He keeps a photo of his father in his bedroom, so it’s the first thing he sees every morning when he wakes. It’s also the last thing he sees before he goes to sleep.
But it’s mostly at the rink where Kevin is reminded of the void in his life.
“I just miss him in the stands, watching me play,” Kevin said. “That’s kind of tough.”
Hockey has helped Granatino cope through the winter season. In fact, just days after his father died, he was back between the pipes when the Harbormen faced off against South Shore rival Duxbury. He had been tabbed for the start by Hingham head coach Tony Messina days before his father’s death. When it appeared Joe had taken a turn for the worst, Messina again asked Granatino if he was OK to make the start.
“Definitely,” Kevin responded.
With the news of Joe’s passing, Messina sent his condolences and he dropped Kevin a text message to see if was still up for the start against Duxbury. Given the circumstances, Messina could’ve expected that Granatino would choose to take time away from the team.
The reply he received? “Absolutely.”
Kevin made his scheduled start against the Green Dragons on Dec. 27 and led Hingham to a 3-2 overtime win (although it counted for a tie in the standings) over their rival at the Ed Taylor tournament.
“He was excellent in that game,” Messina added.
Granatino has been a steadying influence to the Harbormen this season, posting a 1.61 goals against average during the regular season while splitting time with junior Derek McInnis in net and helping Hingham to another Super Eight tournament berth.
“He hasn’t probably played as many games as he’s wanted to in the last couple years or so,” Messina said, “but every time he gets in there, he has a great attitude. He’s always enthusiastic. I think the team feeds off of that.
“On the other hand, I think it’s been great for him to have us, as a team, and being involved with the program during a difficult time for him. He’s friends with everyone on the team and you can tell they’ve been mindful of what’s going on in their life. I think that might be the best part of being a part of any team.”
Likewise, his teammates have lifted him.
“It was tough at first, but you realize that you have everybody behind you from my team, to my family, all my friends,” Granatino said. “The team is a big part of that, they’re like my family. I can go up to any one of them and talk about anything.”
The Harbormen dropped their first two games of the Super Eight tournament, so it’s possible that Hingham’s game against Central Catholic on Sunday will be Granatino’s last high school game.
Granatino is hoping to play golf in college. He’s considering Bentley, Providence College and Northeastern.
Although Kevin’s hockey career might soon be over, he will have his sister Nicole’s games. His younger sister, who’s a junior at Hingham, is part of the Harborwomen hockey team that ended St. Mary’s of Lynn’s 100-game unbeaten streak on Thursday with a 3-2 overtime win in a Division 1 quarterfinal. So there’s more playoff hockey to come for the Granatino household no matter Sunday’s result.
But, throughout the grieving process, Kevin’s had hockey as an outlet, the comfort of skating around with his teammates every afternoon at Pilgrim Ice Arena.
Even though hockey might be over, life will carry on for him, his sister, his older brother, Joe, and his mother, Kim.
“It’s allowed me to take my mind off of everything,” Granatino said. “Coming here every day and having a great time has really helped.”
“It’ll be sad,” he added about the prospect of playing his last game, “but it’s all been something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
“We’re just trying to go out with a bang.”