Now Danny Donato coaches his brother's sons -- his nephews Ryan and Jack -- at the prestigious Dexter School, a New England prep school that counts John F. Kennedy and his brother Joseph P. Kennedy among its alumni. When Danny began coaching Ryan the dynamics were made clear.
"I told him in the dressing room I'm not Uncle Danny. I'm Coach," Danny told ESPN.com this week.
And Danny admitted he made that point by being a little harder on Ryan than the other players, feeling it was important to send a message to everyone that family is family, but in the dressing room family has a meaning that transcends shared last names. Ryan acknowledges that message was sent clearly and strongly.
"Very strong," Ryan said. "He's definitely helped me get to where I am."
After Ted retired from the NHL he became the head coach at Harvard and has now been there a decade. A year from this fall Ryan will join the Harvard team as well. It's a strange dynamic, because as an NCAA coach Ted Donato can't talk about a potential player until he's gained admission to Harvard, and that won't happen for Ryan until the fall of 2015.
As a father, though, he can tell you how pleased he is that his son has chosen to attend a school that should provide all kinds of opportunities, whether they be on a power play or in a finance class.
"Teddy and Ryan value education and understand what a Harvard degree could mean to him," Danny said.
Still, at this moment hockey remains a priority and a focal point for the family.
"He's always wanted to play professional hockey. Ever since he was little," Danny said.
Going back to the days of 'Hockey-nato' and skating around with Paul Kariya, "it's always been in him," his coach said.
"He really couldn't care less about video games and stuff like that," Danny added.
Ryan would rather be in the driveway shooting lead pucks into corners of a net. Ryan has also worked hard away from the ice to be in top shape, and his work at the player combine in Toronto last month was impressive.
"He has just been relentless about working out," Danny said. "It's amazing what he's done with his body."
Danny came to Dexter after coaching in Connecticut, and the program was in startup mode when he arrived. Last season the team was ranked among the top 10 in New England at the start of the season. Ryan is a big part of that.
"I certainly knew he was a very good player," Danny said.
While younger brother Jack is evolving into a solid player in his own right -- no doubt looking up to his older, more accomplished brother -- Ryan has skills that have impressed scouts around the NHL. He is considered one of the top high school players in the draft, having scored 37 times and collected 78 points in 30 games this season. Danny thinks his nephew's high skill set might even see him creep up in a draft where there is little consensus from the top on down.
"What Ryan does I can't teach. Ryan's hands and his vision are as good as anybody's in the draft," Danny said. "I actually think he's underrated in this draft."
The one area Ryan continues to work on is his play away from the puck. Looking to become a more complete player isn't uncommon among talented teenagers playing major junior or headed the NCAA route, and whose names will be called in Philadelphia Friday and Saturday.