Redemption Song

I am, as most people know, an unapologetic puckhead.  I love hockey, and am looking forward to seeing the Blues lace up again.  So this story caught my eye, and begged for a post.

The young man in the picture above is Mike Danton.  The inserts are his mug shot and his coach/agent, David Frost.  Danton recently completed a prison sentence involving Frost.  Rather than try to explain, I’ll instead quote the CBC’s synopsis of their excellent investigation, “the fifth estate: Rouge Agent.”

In the early morning of April 16, 2004 NHL hockey player Mike Danton was arrested by FBI agents at the San Jose, California airport. He was charged with conspiring to have “a male acquaintance” murdered in a “murder-for-hire” plot.

On July 16, 2004 Mike Danton entered into a plea agreement with United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers confirmed that David Frost was the man the hockey player wanted killed.

The story made headline after headline across North America.  Because Danton pleaded guilty and did not testify, the opportunity to explore his reasons for trying to have David Frost killed were lost.  Danton’s motives for paying someone $10,000 to kill Frost remain hidden still.

What Happened?

No one knows all of the details other than Danton.  There was quite a bit of speculation than gets far too personal for me to want to recount.  But there are a few things that are well known.

  • Danton was arrested two days after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs.
  • Danton pleaded guilty to attempting to hire a hitman, targeting Frost.  That hitman was actually a police dispatcher.
  • Jailhouse records of conversations between Danton and Frost from just after the arrest include Frost instructing Danton to plead guilty, among other things.
  • Danton later changed his story, saying he intended to have his father killed, not his agent.
  • Danton’s attorney, Howard Kieffer, was later revealed to have never graduated law school, pleading guilty to two felony charges for misrepresenting himself.

The relationship between Danton and Frost gets stranger and stranger.  But that’s not the story here.

Prison and Redemption

Danton spent five years in Sandstone prison in Minnesota.  He was then transferred at his request to Pittsburgh Institution in Joyceville, Ontario.  By Canadian law, he was then eligible for parole, which was granted on September 11, 2009.

While in prison, Danton started taking university classes.  When released, he enrolled at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and joined the university hockey team.  In 2010 he was named to the Academic All-Canadian team with a 3.9 GPA.  Earlier this year, he signed with a professional Swedish team, IFK Ore.

Danton’s first game was on September 20, 2011.  During the game, one of his teammates, Marcus Bengtsson, hit his head hard on the ice and went into convulsions.  Danton was there, and may have saved Bengtsson’s life with training he received in prison.  From ESPN:

“I have seen seizures before. In prison, druggies would come in off the streets and have withdrawals,” he wrote. “So, when the convulsions did not (stop) after a couple of minutes, I knew something was wrong.”

After Danton stopped the choking, other teammates helped him put the 21-year-old Bengtsson on his side before an ambulance arrived and took him to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and kept overnight.

“There have been so many tragic injuries in hockey lately and this incident was very close to being another,” Danton wrote. “These types of scenarios get you asking yourself questions and realizing the important things in life — like friends.”

We have been treated to plenty of stories of athletes going to prison and returning to the field.  But none faced a moment like this in their first pro game.  Or any of their games.  These moments don’t come along often, thankfully.  But Danton was there for his.  He went from attempting to take a life to saving one, and the path between made the ending possible.

I think it would be a stretch to say that Danton is a changed man, although I’m sure five years in prison will change you.  By many accounts, he was a scared, confused youth when he went to jail, looking for a way out.  And through his experience, he hopefully has found one.



  1. […] the National Parole Board in 2009 that the target was his father, with whom he has been estranged.Former NHLer Mike Danton played the hero in his opening game in the Swedish league after a fellow pl… CBCMike Danton played the hero in his opening game of the Swedish league.The former NHL player, who […]

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