Mike Danton has never had the easiest go of things. His childhood abuse starting at the age of 13 by NHL agent and Danton's mentor David Frost is well documented, and troubling, to say the least. The abuse lasted from Danton's childhood presumably through his pro-career and subsequent 2004 prison sentence for hiring a hit man to kill Frost.
Art Voice.com summarized Frost's sickening abuse of Danton as a child thus:
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 Upon returning home, Tom was sullen and withdrawn, and the parents eventually discovered photographs of their naked 13-year-old son bound to a bed with duct tape, photos taken at Frost’s retreat.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.
Shockingly, Danton played for Frost while frost was coaching the Pembroke Lumberkings of the CJHL. This wasn't a legit coaching job by Frost, however, as the CJHL banned him from two other teams.
Danton's hard work through the junior leagues and OHL got him noticed by the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him in the 5th round (135th overall) of the 2000 NHL entry draft. He played two games for the Devils that year, and 69 games for their AHL affiliate Albany River Rats. After scoring 19 goals and 15 assists that season, he got 17 games with the big club the next season.
The Blues acquired Danton for a 3rd round pick in 2003, shortly after a publicized feud between Danton and Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. He played 68 games with St. Louis, scoring seven goals and five assists, and accumulating an impressive 141 penalty minutes.
Shortly before the Blues got knocked out of the 2004 playoffs, Danton's world came crashing down. He was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder on April 16th, and on July 16th he pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to seven and a half years.
Frost denies that the hit was on him, and Danton now claims that it was supposed to be on his father, not his former agent. However, Frost and Danton had extensive phone contact while Danton was in prison, and it does not seem to large of a leap to conclude that further manipulation of the hockey player took place. The CBC did an in-depth investigation of the situation in 2005, and the accompanying television program, Rogue Agent, shows very clearly the manipulation skills of Frost. He was charged with twelve counts of sexual exploitation, all of which he managed to be acquitted of. He was also charged with fraud for using Danton's credit card, but was acquitted as well when Danton claimed to have given his former agent permission.
Deadspin outlined the more sordid details of the case, with a copy of the e-mail Danton sent to his presumed hit-staff. The evidence very clearly points to a disturbed, manipulated individual who wanted to break free from his oppressor, but just couldn't. Even more unfortunate is that Danton's legal counsel, who encouraged him to sign the plea deal, was found to not be an attorney at all.
Danton requested to be transferred to a Canadian prison, and in 2009 was sent to the Pittsburgh Institution in Joyceville, Ontario. He was granted parole in 2009 under the terms that he have no contact with his father, and no face to face contact with Frost. He enrolled at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was eligible for their hockey team. In what was the beginning of a second chance, Danton scored a goal in his first game playing for the Huskies. Saint Mary's went on to win the CIS University Cup.
James O'Brien broke the news today on Pro Hockey Talk that Danton's pro career might be getting on track again. Danton tweeted this regarding his career yesterday:
Just signed my first pro contract in 8 years. I'm off to Sweden for the 2011-2012 season. Thanks to everyone for their support.
It was confirmed by the Swedish Division One team IFK Ore today that Danton will be playing for them next season (translation from Google Translate):
We are very pleased that Mike decided to come to us and we are confident that he will be able to add much to the team. Both in terms of experience for this young team, and performance on the ice. Mike hopes to join the squad on 10 August.
Hopefully this is just another step on the long road to redemption for Danton. Childhood sexual abuse is a strange thing that can, at times, mimic Stockholm syndrom. Mike Danton obviously still has a relationship with David Frost that can be seen as extremely damaging, and it would probably be in his, and his career's, best interest to seek counseling and break those ties. That would be the greatest step he could take to return to North American professional hockey.