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The Bizarre World of Mike Danton

Mike Danton
David Frost

The tried-and-true system for developing hockey talent in Canada has worked well for generations: youngsters billeted with host families experiencing the joy of competition as they work their way through the junior system, and paternal agents looking out for the good of their clients. Every year on NHL Draft Day, that joy is manifested among the new draftees. One by one the names are called, and fresh young faces walk up to the podium as beaming parents and siblings look on. These kids are another step closer to a lifelong dream of playing in the NHL.

But sometimes things can go horribly wrong. Such is the case with former NHL player Mike Danton.

A member of the St. Louis Blues, 23-year-old Danton was arrested in April of 2004 for organizing a plot to have his agent David Frost murdered. The story made national headlines across the USA and especially in Canada. Why would a player who enjoyed fame and success resort to such extraordinary actions? Just who was this agent and what was the nature of their relationship? As the story unfolded, more strange details emerged: how Mike Danton grew up as Mike Jefferson, and had legally changed his name to sever all ties with his birth family in Brampton, Ontario. How Frost maintained a cult-like relationship not only with Danton, but several other players including former NHLer Sheldon Keefe, controlling every aspect of their lives and junior hockey careers.

After his arrest by the FBI, Danton entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to 7-10 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at a federal facility in Ft. Dix, New Jersey. And because he did not testify, the public never got to learn Danton’s motives for offering someone $10,000 to kill Frost. Those motives remain a mystery to this day.

But the story does not end there.

Recently released taped jailhouse phone conversations indicate that David Frost quickly reclaimed his role as Danton’s mentor and advisor. As early as one week after the arrest, Frost coached Danton on how to deal with law enforcement officials, attorneys and psychologists, instructing him on what to say and exactly how to say it. Danton cobbled together a sad story, speaking of his bad childhood suffered at the hands of abusive parents, in a home where he claims alcohol and drug abuse was the norm. The Jeffersons vehemently deny that such was the case.

In fact, the Jeffersons filed their own complaint against Frost regarding an allegation of abuse involving their younger son Tom. At age 13, Tom was allowed to take part in a weekend retreat at Frost’s cottage in Kingston, attended also by his older brother Mike and other boys. Upon returning home, Tom was sullen and withdrawn, and the parents eventually discovered photographs of their naked 13-year-old son bound to a bed with duct tape, photos taken at Frost’s retreat. Further details of that weekend emerged. Tom was forced to eat pancakes that were spat on by Frost; he was shot at with a BB gun while hanging from a tree branch; he was also ordered to dance naked atop a table for hours.

When confronted, Frost dismissed all these antics as part of an initiation rite. The Crown Attorney investigated the matter but declined to prosecute and the case was closed.

Despite being banned from two separate minor hockey organizations in Canada, Frost nonetheless attempted his own comeback as a coach/agent/mentor, working behind the scenes with the CJHL (junior) Pembroke Lumberkings, a town located northwest of Ottawa.

And who owns the Lumberkings? None other than Sheldon Keefe, who curiously put his own playing career with the Tampa Bay Lightning on hold to run a junior club, with Frost directing traffic in the background.

Danton: Listen, I gotta go now.

Frost: Do you love me?

Danton (whispers): Yeah.

Frost: Say it.

Danton: I love you.

Frost: Do you?

Danton: Yeah.

Frost: OK.

— excerpt from phone conversation between player Mike Danton and agent David Frost.

Frost’s murky relationship with Danton and the other players, and his repeated attempts to be around hockey rinks and have access to teenage boys has raised alarm bells across the Canadian junior hockey spectrum. After an altercation in November involving Frost and a league official at a CJHL game in Ottawa, league Commissioner Mac MacLean took the extraordinary step of banning Frost from all of their league’s hockey games, and even went so far as distributing Frost’s photo to gameday personnel at their arenas.

We attempted to reach Keefe at the team offices in Pembroke in an effort to clarify Frost’s relationship with the club, but Keefe refused any comment and hung up.

On December 5, Frost resigned as an agent from the NHL Player’s Association—this on the heels of a promised investigation by the NHLPA into Frost’s certification and related activities. Frost’s resignation led to questions about he attained such certification in the first place. To become a registered agent one must go through an arduous screening process. An examination of listed agents on the NHLPA’s website shows an impressive array of attorneys, MBA’s, and former NHL players, including the legendary Bobby Orr.

So how did a rumpled, low-level junior coach like Frost make the cut?

In 1995 Frost organized a junior team of his own in Toronto, headlined by Danton, Keefe and his other “Brampton Boys.” Another player on that squad was Joe Goodenow, the son of then NHLPA President Bob Goodenow. Goodenow forged a strong relationship with Frost during that season, even ignoring Frost’s later antics like punching out one of his players on the bench, in full view of horrified fans. Many believe that Frost’s agent certification was shepherded by Goodenow, and he was now free to represent players in negotiations with NHL teams.

In yet another development, father Steve Jefferson was arrested in early December by Ontario authorities for allegedly making a series of harassing phone calls to Frost’s house. “I said I want to talk to my son, I called him a coward and a liar,” said Jefferson to the Toronto Star. The calls were made after a story detailing Danton’s jailhouse relationship with Frost was aired nationally on the CBC program, “The Fifth Estate,” containing some revelations that were new to the Jefferson family. The disposition of Jefferson’s arrest is still pending.

Frost has refused repeated requests from multiple media sources for a detailed interview. But in off the cuff comments to CBC, Frost accused the FBI of orchestrating a smear campaign to embarrass him and Danton. “Once we get Mike back (on Canadian soil), you’ll see, you’ll see, and it’s a much bigger story than you think” Frost promised. “It’s because the FBI lied. They lied.”

Danton has formally requested a transfer to a Canadian prison and to have his sentence reduced. That application is under review. Normally, being closer to one’s family would be cited as a reason for such a transfer, but Danton has no contact with his parents and his brother back in Brampton. His move to Canada would, however, bring him closer to the extended family of Frost, Keefe and other former teammates who operate in a cocooned world that is impenetrable from the outside.