In April of 2004, Mike Danton (or Mike Jefferson, depending on who you speak to) and 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer were arrested and charged with hiring a hit man to kill Mike's agent, David Frost. News reports didn't admit to Frost being the alleged target at first, but as more and more details surfaced, the more obvious it became.
The reason I'm choosing to archive this story on this site is because the parallels between this case and Sheldon's were too similar to be passed off. Not only that, but in the days following the arrest, Sheldon's name was mentioned twice in two different posts on two different boards. So I did a little research, and decided that details about the case should be posted here.
Following are the May, 2004 articles regarding the case.
With Blues' player Mike Danton apparently in transit to St. Louis - and still not talking to associates about events that led to his arrest in an alleged murder-for-hire plot - stories have continued to surface about his family, his agent and his tumultuous past.
For two weeks, Danton's parents have spoken about how they have been estranged from their son solely because of his agent, Dave Frost. On Saturday, several of Frost's clients spoke publicly for the first time.
The comments came the same day
a report in the Ottawa Citizen detailed a 2001 investigation stemming
from a 13-year-old boy's allegation of sexual assault against Frost.
The investigation reportedly involved several of Frost's current clients.
Stephen Jefferson said Saturday night: "All I've said all along is exactly what took place. He (Frost) can call me whatever he wants. He can say whatever he wants. All that matters really to me is getting Mike help. That is my whole goal in this."Truly, only Danton knows, all sides have said.
"Certainly, absolutely, no question," said Sheldon Keefe, Danton's longtime friend and Frost's player and later client. "I would like for Mike to be able to speak to everybody. He's obviously not in a situation to do that. Certainly there will come a time when Mike will be able to do that - and it will clean up a lot of things." As best as any of his representatives could say, Danton remained in transit on Saturday. He is in the custody of U.S. marshals and was moved from a California jail on Friday morning. (On Thursday, the 19-year-old woman, Katie Wolfmeyer, indicted along with Danton, pleaded not guilty.) The U.S. marshals do not notify parties of the specifics of prisoner movement because of security concerns. For several days, Danton has not contacted his attorney, his agent and his friends, all said.
Danton's attorney expects to be notified when he arrives in the St. Louis area - which could be 16 days after his April 16 arrest in San Jose, Calif.
Robert Haar, Danton's St. Louis-based attorney, said he has not been notified if an initial appearance for Danton is scheduled for Monday.
"I'll prepare for one," Haar said Saturday. "I'm working under the assumption that it could be as early as Monday, but I've not been told it will be Monday. If he arrives Monday, it could happen Tuesday. We have not been told any specific day."
Danton, 23, must still be arraigned on the charges of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire - as outlined in a criminal complaint originally filed by the FBI - and a bail hearing must be held. His agent, Frost, has said they want Danton to be immediately placed in counseling. His parents have also said they hope their son "gets help," even going so far as to ask the National Hockey League Players' Association to set it up.
Asked about how the sideshow of seesaw accusations impacts his case or how interested he is in the Frost-Jefferson media exchange, Haar said:
"Our focus is solely on the case at hand." Shortly after Danton's arrest - the day following the Blues' season-ending loss to the San Jose Sharks - his agent said Danton tried to set up counseling at the end of the season. Frost said his client "had fears" and was experiencing "paranoia." Danton's Canada-based attorney, Michael Edelson, said Danton sounded "depressed" when he spoke to him.
Haar had no comment about how he plans to defend his client, having only said previously that Danton will plead not guilty.
With Danton in limbo - awaiting uncontested transfer from Santa Clara County Jail to the St. Louis area - the story shifted to a scavenger hunt into his history. Police sources identified Frost as the acquaintance in the criminal complaint - an acquaintance at Danton's residence when Wolfmeyer and the hired gun, the FBI's cooperating witness, allegedly arrived. Frost denies being the target; he does not deny being at the residence.
Danton's relationship with Frost became a focus of interest, especially after Stephen Jefferson called Frost "a monster." On Saturday, the Ottawa Citizen reported on a 2001 investigation into a complaint from a 13-year-old boy that he was sexually assaulted while with Frost and other boys at a cottage in Ontario. The investigation did not result in any charges being filed. The boy, now 17, told the paper he stands by his story: "What I told you is the truth. I wish someone could just do something about it."
Frost said Saturday: "All of that stuff has been investigated.
"Five of us were investigated. None of us were charged. I won't allow this to get us sidetracked from the real issue. It's over. Bottom line, this kid (Danton) is like a son to me. My only concern is his health, not vendettas. I don't want all this back-and-forth," Frost said.
There are individuals pushing for the investigation to be re-opened. Asked about the investigation more than a week ago, Ontario Provincial Police refused to confirm or deny whether an investigation ever took place, or if it was recently restarted. At the same time as the investigation, Danton began the legal process of changing his name from Jefferson. The investigation remains one of many accusations, counter-accusations made peripherally of Danton's arrest that cannot be confirmed by law enforcement.
On Saturday, several of Frost's current clients were available to comment for the first time. All were contacted with the aid of Frost. They all spoke of their relationship with Frost, and their remembrances of Danton's upbringing.
"These things being said about Dave Frost being so controlling, so manipulating - all that is mind-boggling to me," said Brad Bonello, a Frost client who plays for the Peterborough Petes in junior hockey. Frost was at Bonello's side the night his father died of cancer. "That's the stuff that sticks in people's minds. He stayed there with us, had some good, reassuring things to say, things I still remember. He's been a great friend as well as agent."
Said Shawn Cation, a longtime friend and teammate of Danton's and a Frost client who is about to graduate from St. Thomas University: "Everything I've heard has just been unbelievable. I cannot tell you how badly Mike wanted to get away from his past. That was his motivation, it seemed. And who wouldn't? He wanted to get as far away from his family as possible."
Both Cation and Bonello and another client, Lance Galbraith, unlike Frost clients Danton and Sheldon and Adam Keefe, are not estranged from their families.
Keefe, who was with Danton at the rink after the Blues' last game in San Jose, elaborated on what he called "the hurdles he had to overcome in his upbringing." He called Stephen Jefferson Mike's "former father." He and Frost both allege Danton was abused as a child. (The Jeffersons have said he wasn't.) In a letter he said he wrote and wanted released to the media, Keefe described squalid elements of Danton's childhood home. (The family and friends don't recall the squalor.) He describes incidents the family says didn't happen.
Similarly, the family has described events - like Stephen Jefferson saying he last talked with his son via cell phone when Danton was on the way to a game in New York - that Frost says never happened.
"It got to a point where I just couldn't bite my tongue," Keefe said Saturday. "I came to a point where I had to speak up. I saw what I saw. I don't need to make things up. There are some things that Mike needs to get off his chest."
The Jeffersons said they have spoken to the media as a way to speak to their son. They hope to reconcile with him. Asked if he thought his best friend would return to his family, Keefe said:
"Nothing can be repaired.
Mike Danton, who was accustomed to special flights chartered for St. Louis Blues players, returned to the St. Louis area Monday on a very different private plane - one on which U.S. marshals shuttle the accused and the convicted to courts and prisons around the country.
He is set to appear at 1 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gerald B. Cohn in court at East St. Louis to answer charges that he conspired and used a telephone in interstate commerce to try to set up a murder for hire.
A Marshals Service Boeing 727
set down Monday morning at MidAmerica Airport near Mascoutah, with passengers
removed behind a screen of vehicles on the tarmac, far from the terminal.
Reports said some were bound for the high-security prison at Marion.
Danton was taken to the Clinton County Jail in Carlyle, one of several
lockups used under contract for federal prisoners awaiting trial.
Lawyers could take up the issue of whether Danton should remain jailed pending trial or should be released on bond. Or they may discuss bond at a later hearing. Officials declined Monday to comment.
Danton, 23, who is from Canada, had been held in California since his arrest there April 16, shortly after the Blues played their last game of the season.
His alleged accomplice, Katie Koester Wolfmeyer, 19, of Florissant, is at liberty after her parents posted $10,000 cash for her bond.
Danton and Wolfmeyer are accused
of trying to arrange the murder of a man staying at Danton's apartment
in Brentwood, later identified by police sources as the player's agent
Courtesy St. Louis Today.
ST. LOUIS -- Blues forward Mike
Danton returned to the St. Louis area from California on Monday to face
charges in an alleged murder-for-hire plot, a federal marshal said.
Danton was arrested April 16 in
California, hours after the San Jose Sharks beat the Blues to eliminate
them from the NHL playoffs. His attorney, Bob Haar, has said Danton
also will plead innocent. A phone call to Haar wasn't returned.
Posted 5/4/2004 9:47 PM
Some who witnessed that nomadic relationship firsthand as it trekked through Canada's junior hockey system describe it as controlling, possibly physically abusive or just odd.
What makes the Danton-Frost connection so central to the murder-for-hire case is that, once Danton is extradited to Illinois from California, prosecutors are expected to allege Danton's target was Frost.
Danton pleaded innocent at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill., following his extradition from California, where he was taken into custody after St. Louis' season-ending loss in the playoffs. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for July 12, and a trial was set for July 20. A detention hearing will be held Friday.
Danton and his alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer, are charged with conspiring to pay an unidentified hit man $10,000 to commit a murder. Wolfmeyer pleaded innocent last week.
As the court case against Danton moves forward, it also may rattle the foundation of how hockey players are groomed for the pros. Danton's seeming subjugation to Frost raises questions for a sport where boys as young as 11 commonly are courted by agents intent on directing the child's future.
Authorities believe agent Dave
Frost was the subject of a murder-for-hire plot.
And the powerful NHL Players Association could come under fire for certifying Frost as an agent despite knowing he had become a junior league outcast after pleading guilty in a case that involved slugging a player during a game.
A month ago, no one in hockey would have deemed Danton, 23, capable of having such far-reaching impact. His most notable statistic was amassing a team-leading 141 penalty minutes in 68 games this season as a fourth-line forward. He sat out most of the 2002-03 season as a twice-suspended malcontent. He twice had refused to report to a minor league team and was upset about a lack of playing time with the New Jersey Devils, who made no secret Danton was available for trade.
His one distinguishing act was legally changing his last name in 2002 from Jefferson to Danton, to further disassociate himself from his already estranged family. That break has set off a series of wrathful exchanges. Danton's father, Stephen Jefferson, accuses Frost of being a "monster" who stole his son. Frost, who hasn't returned calls to USA TODAY, has told other media Danton was reared in a neglectful home.
But perhaps the most telling stop of Danton's career came during the 1996-97 season, when he was 16 and played for a junior team in Deseronto, Ontario. Residents of that town of 1,800 say the tier-2 team — the rough equivalent of an American Legion baseball squad in the USA — provided the most exciting and yet also the most troubling chapter of life ever in their community along the Bay of Quinte, an inlet from Lake Ontario.
Agent started as coach
From the outset, it was clear the fortunes of the Quinte Hawks would depend on Danton and five other players brought to Deseronto by Frost, who was hired as an assistant coach and hadn't yet begun his career as an agent.
Deseronto was a convenient landing spot for Frost because it was an expansion franchise of the so-called "renegade" Metro League, which operated apart from the rest of the Canadian junior hockey system. Frost had been suspended by the Metro Toronto Hockey League (now known as the Greater Toronto Hockey League) in 1996 for allegedly forging player-release forms, an accusation he has denied. He also was suspended by the Ontario Hockey Association in 1994 for having an unruly team.
In Deseronto, what soon struck some of the 1,000 fans who crammed into the town's 600-capacity arena for Hawks games was how distant "Frosty's" players were.
Four of Frost's players stayed with him in a two-room apartment at Deseronto's only hotel, the Bay View Inn, and the entire group gathered there nightly, though Danton and one of Frost's other players boarded at local homes.
"I could tell something was going to happen to those kids," says Andre Carriere, a Hawks player who boarded at the same house as Danton. "It was just the fact that they were always going over to that hotel. It was just weird to me. They were like tied to that coach."
Carriere says one indication of Frost's heavy-handedness was that if the families of his six players came to games, "He'd tell the parents to leave (after games). He'd tell the kids' parents: 'You don't need to talk to your son. You saw him play and that's enough, get on the bus.' "
Carriere, a middle school teacher in Illinois, says that even though he and Danton boarded together for a full season, "I don't know him at all. ... Really, all he ever talked about was whether he was going to make it."
And while Carriere says Frost was a "great" coach who "had a lot of knowledge," he adds: "It always felt like we had two teams. We (the players who weren't brought in by Frost) were coached by one coach, and the others were coached by another coach. ... (Frost) had his players that he wanted to make shine. The rest of us were just support, I guess."
Unusual relationship with players
Danton and Carriere boarded at the home of Elena Phillips. The practice of boarding players with families is common in Canadian junior hockey, where players commonly leave home at 15 or 16 to join small-town teams in hopes of getting noticed by pro scouts.
Schooling for those young players also is often interrupted by the demands of a playing a 60-game schedule and traveling to away games in remote cities by bus.
Phillips says when she heard the latest news of the Danton-Frost saga, she said to herself, "Oh my God, is he still with that guy?"
She says her first inkling Frost had an unusual relationship with his players came when she returned home early from a trip, and the group was having a cookout on her deck. Phillips says when she told Frost and the players to enjoy themselves and she would go inside and watch television, "Dave Frost just pointed to each of the boys. He didn't say a word. And they all just started collecting the food and without saying a word away they went, back to the hotel room."
On another night, Phillips says Danton "came home from the hotel and he was visibly distressed. There were welts on his face. Raised red welts. I said 'Did he hit you?' and he just went to his room and closed the door. I asked him about it the next day, and all he said was 'I'm OK.' "
Phillips says: "I thought there's something wrong here. I was just really afraid for him."
Sharing that fear was Annalee Fuller, who was president of the Hawks fan club and wife of the team's trainer, whom she since has divorced.
"I don't know how in words to describe it, other than that you just knew something was really wrong with this Frosty," Fuller says. "You just knew it in your guts, just the way he acted, the way these few particular boys were kept aside from the other players. ... We knew Frost was bad news, and you knew that eventually something really bad was going to come of it."
Fuller says her concerns were validated when, during a Hawks game, she saw Frost slug one of his players, Darryl Tiveron, on the team bench.
"My recollection is he smacked him and his helmet sort of went off," Fuller says. "It was sort of in the face. I remember his whole head and helmet going back."
Fuller says, "You would have been blind not to see it. A bunch of us stood up and started screaming at Frost, telling him to back off."
Fuller says she recognized two off-duty police officers at the game and went to them to complain. One of those officers, Del Wannamaker, confirms he was at the game and talked with Fuller but declined further comment. The police chief at the time, Norm Clark, now a town council member in Deseronto, did not return phone calls.
Tiveron, who is out of hockey and couldn't be contacted, denied the slugging incident at the time, according to reports. Frost also denied it but eventually pleaded guilty to assault and was given 12 months' probation. The Ontario attorney general's office says because Frost served that probation without violation, he was granted a "conditional discharge" and has no criminal record from the incident.
Coach becomes agent
That circumstance may have helped Frost become certified as an agent by the NHL Players Association, whose executive director, Bob Goodenow, has a son, Joe, who once played for Frost.
The NHLPA does background checks on agents who apply for certification. In an e-mail response to questions, NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said, "All aspects of a candidate's background are considered, with an emphasis on their conduct as it relates to fiduciary matters." Weatherdon said no one ever has asked the NHLPA to investigate Frost's fitness as an agent.
Asked about Goodenow's relationship with Frost, Weatherdon said: "In light of the pending litigation, the NHLPA will not answer any media inquiries relating to this matter."
That Frost was certified despite his questionable episode and guilty plea bothers hockey agent Pat Morris, who says, "I would say that out of the 250 agents we have, there's no one else with a conditional discharge."
After the slugging incident, Frost only attended Hawks road games. At season's end, the junior league draft broke up the Hawks. Danton was selected by Sarnia, but during the 1997-98 season he was reunited with three of Frost's players from the Hawks when he was traded to the St. Michael's Majors. During the 1998-99 season, that foursome was traded to the Barrie Colts.
Michael Futa, a former St. Michael's coach who is general manager for Owen Sound, confirms that part of the reason for the trade was that Frost had been in the stands at games giving hand signals to his players.
A Barrie spokesman said the organization is taking a blanket no-comment stance on Danton and Frost and wouldn't address whether Frost continued making hand signals to his players there.
In a 1999 interview with Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons, Frost's response on the hand-signal issue was: "Hand signals? I've heard that before. If I can coach from the crowd using hand signals, I should be coaching third base for the (Toronto) Blue Jays."
Ex-teammates stay mum
Hockey is known for having a code of silence even on such mundane matters as routine injuries. But that code has been followed in the extreme with the Danton case. Three of the so-called "Frost" players who were teammates with Danton in Deseronto — the Tampa Bay Lightning's Sheldon Keefe, Ryan Barnes of the minor league Grand Rapids (Mich.) Griffins and Shawn Cation of St. Thomas University in New Brunswick — either did not return calls or declined comment through their agents or teams. Another six players who were junior league teammates of Danton from 1998-2000 with Barrie also either did not return calls or declined comment through their teams. Several other people who were affiliated with teams Danton played for also declined comment or did not return calls.
A Blues spokesman said the organization hasn't had any contact with Danton, who will become a restricted free agent in June and Blues players who had tried to contact him in the California jail weren't successful.
Danton's St. Louis-area attorney, Bob Haar, says Danton's time in the California jail while awaiting extradition wasn't easy.
"He had a shoulder injury at the end of the season, and that needs attention," Haar says. "But he's hanging in there."
And as for whether the circumstances of his client's relationship with Frost could somehow play into the player's defense, Haar would only echo what many are saying about Danton: "I can't comment."
Contributing: Kevin Allen, USA
ESPN.com news services
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he conspired to kill an acquaintance in a murder-for-hire plot.
Danton, wearing an orange jail-issued
jumpsuit, spoke in calm and measured tones in brief responses to questions
from U.S. Magistrate Gerald Cohn at the federal courthouse in East St.
Louis, Ill. He is charged with conspiring and using a telephone across
state lines to attempt a murder.
With his mother and brother seeing him in person for the first time in nearly 3 1/2 years, Blues player Mike Danton stood in a federal court in East St. Louis on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to interstate murder-for-hire charges.
After 17 days in jail, mostly
in California, Danton made his first appearance in court here. U.S.
Magistrate Gerald B. Cohn set a bond hearing for Friday.
"He's relieved because at least something is happening," said Robert Haar, Danton's St. Louis-based attorney. "The waiting and the waiting for something to happen, not knowing where you're going to be is over. . . . He's happy the procedure has started."
Five U.S. marshals surrounded Danton, 23, as he entered the courtroom, all of them as tall or taller than the diminutive player praised for his on-ice feistiness, not size. He wore an orange jail jumpsuit, jailhouse sandals and handcuffs.
He made no eye contact with the crowd.
Watching from the seats closest
to the defense table were three members of Danton's family: his mother,
Susan Jefferson; his brother, Tom Jefferson; and an aunt, Linda Gebe.
They left their homes around 3 a.m. St. Louis time to fly in from Toronto
for the arraignment.
"We wanted to be here to show Michael we're there for him," she continued. "As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't register us as his family. . . . We want to be here for him."
Two of Danton's teammates, Doug Weight and Scott Mellanby, were also in attendance, as well as team trainer Ray Barile and video coach Jamie Kompon. Haar said Danton was appreciative of the players' support. Marshals told him Weight and Mellanby were in the crowd, Danton did not see them. They sat in the back row, and Danton would have had to look past his mother and brother to see the Blues.
"Other guys are out of town and we want him to know that his teammates are thinking about him," Weight said, walking out of the courthouse. "We want to support Mike and let him know people are with him and worried about him."
Other teammates plan to visit Danton, if permitted.
Asked if Danton knew his relatives were there, Haar said:
"I don't think he was aware of that." Haar said he would try to reach an agreement on conditions for Danton's release before Friday's hearing. One condition could be that Danton enter counseling, which has been sought by his agent, Dave Frost, and his parents.
However, a prosecutor argued Tuesday against bail. Danton was taken to the Clinton County Jail in Carlyle after the hearing.
"I don't think Mike's a flight risk, and if evidence is presented, it will be obvious that he is not," Haar said from the courthouse steps. "The government has moved to keep Mike in detention. We're trying to work out an arrangement that's mutually agreeable. . . . I'm cautiously optimistic something can be worked out."
Haar said Danton was having difficulty sleeping from pain in his shoulder. Haar said Danton needed a magnetic-resonance scan of his shoulder to determine the exact injury.
Danton, who was arrested April 16 by the FBI in San Jose, Calif., the morning after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs, spoke softly and succinctly when speaking with Cohn. The volume on the lectern's microphone had to be upped for Cohn to hear. The judge asked if he was prepared to enter a plea. Danton said he was. Cohn asked: "And what is that plea?"
Danton, his hands cuffed in front, answered: "Not guilty."
"I was a little choked up at first," said Tom Jefferson, Danton's 17-year-old brother. "But I held everything in. . . . This is our chance to let him know we are (there for him). To push for it - without interference. We've tried before. Every chance we got, we did. But now there's no interference."
Asked how his brother has changed since he saw him last, Tom said:
"It looked like his nose has been broken a few more times."
Danton's alleged accomplice, Katie Wolfmeyer, 19, also added a prominent St. Louis attorney - Arthur Margulis - to her defense team on Tuesday after her initial attorney, Don Groshong, asked him to help.
"I've worked with Don Groshong for many years quite successfully," Margulis said. Margulis noted that he had collaborated with Groshong on two high-profile cases when each represented different mothers who had been accused of killing their children.
Haar shares some common ground with Ronald J. Tenpas, U.S. attorney for the southern district of Illinois and the chief prosecutor against Danton - both men once worked as clerks for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist.
Tom Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch
contributed to this report.
ESPN.com news services
ST. LOUIS -- The agent for Mike
Danton claims the Blues forward exhibited "delusional" behavior
prior to allegedly organizing a murder-for-hire plot, USA Today reported
Mike Danton had to move fast. If he was going to pull this joke off, timing was essential.
The first things first: He got to the hotel room before his roommate. He had to squirrel his luggage away in a closet and then look for a place to hide. Behind the television cabinet, maybe. In the closet with his stuff, maybe. He had to find a nook quickly and then wait for the precise comic time.
Ryan Johnson would be there any second.
"He would hide his stuff so when I got to the room it would be like no one was there, like I got there first," said Johnson, Danton's road roommate during his first season with the Blues. "And then he would come flying out from the closet, from behind the TV, somewhere. He got me good a few times, then I got smart to what he would do.
"He had this great sense of humor. He could be very lighthearted."
As Danton, 23, remains jailed awaiting his trial on murder-for-hire charges, it has been revealed that he was well-practiced in hiding more than just himself. In a statement made from jail Friday evening, Danton described his upbringing, saying "under the circumstances it is important to scratch the surface and share a part of my life that I have hidden for so long." His parents refute the allegations of abuse and neglect Danton made elsewhere in the statement.
Danton's and others' depictions of his youth are integral and debatable parts of who he is, and possibly why he's facing charges for allegedly conspiring to pay to have someone killed. So much of who Danton is or was has been contested; his parents and his agent, Dave Frost, even have different views on how good a student Danton was before meeting Frost.
But there are elements of agreement, and from them a portrait of Danton develops.
His parents, Frost, and past and present teammates laud Danton's toughness and sense of humor, especially when he warms to a group. Frost called him "a goofball." During the season with the Blues, he was particularly playful with his teammates' children. He is insatiably competitive, past coaches and teammates said, and he worked relentlessly on his conditioning and strength. He was frenetically hyperactive as a child, relatives and his agent said.
And, universally, everyone agrees: Danton has always been consumed with hockey.
Before ruling Friday that Danton would be denied bond and held in jail, Magistrate Clifford J. Proud said the probation officers' investigation into Danton revealed someone "wrapped up in ice hockey since he was probably a young man."
"Mike's entire life has revolved around hockey," his father, Stephen Jefferson, said. "You see Mike and he had a hockey stick in his hand."
His aunt, Linda Gebe, said she has a letter Danton signed with a P.S.: "I scored 60 goals" for his atom hockey team. Hockey was "always what he talked about," she said. His mother said she has examples of his schoolboy penmanship practice where he would write over and over how he was going to be an NHL hockey player.
It was a long shot. But Mike made it happen.
"He was on his way to having the next 12 years in the NHL," said Frost, who has been associated with Danton since Danton was 11. As Danton's career moved toward the pros, Frost was his defender, his advocate. He would question Danton's ice time and how he was being used. Once, another client, Sheldon Keefe, also Danton's friend, stopped Frost.
"Sheldon said to me, 'Just forget it. He's playing. The joke's over with Mike,'" Frost said. "He's an NHL player now. He's already proved it. He's going to play. It happened for him. You know, the joke's over."
"Never backed down"
In one of his first games with the Quinte Hawks, a team coached by Frost and infamous for its rugged style of play, Danton - then known as Mike Jefferson - popped out of the penalty box and instantly got into a fight. This was not an isolated incident so the details of this fight have blended with other fights to form an anecdotal alloy, but his friend Shawn Cation remembers two things about that early fight.
First, the crowd loved it and loved Mike for it.
Second, Mike had a Mohawk haircut he thought was way cool.
"Typical Mike," said Cation, who along with Keefe, Jefferson and a couple others formed a nucleus of players that Quinte team still associates with Frost. "The crowd came alive for him. He was always like that. He'd stand up to anybody and never backed down from a challenge."
When Brian Finley, the Barrie Colts goaltender who played two seasons with Danton on that junior team, first saw Mike's frame that now only reaches 5 foot 9 and hefts 191 pounds, he thought: middleweight. Turns out, Mike would take on all comers.
"And he was a better player than we knew, too," said Finley, a Nashville draft pick who now plays for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League. He has no affiliation with Danton, Frost or the Jeffersons. "He was a real tough, tough player. Real dedicated guy, one of the most dedicated I've played with. Even going to high school - I had the whole morning with him - he was jogging to school, every day."
Danton was a live wire before games then, like he was with the Blues this season. His pregame warmups included running dashes wherever he could find room. Several times this season, he asked directions to staircases so he could run some pregame steps. And this, his friends and family say, is calm compared to his youth.
His mother, Sue Jefferson, said he was a "handful" because of his hyperactivity as a kid. His family said he used to bounce off the walls - literally. He would run and slam into the wall, just because. Frost said teams didn't want Danton because he was so wildly unrestrained in the dressing room.
That untamed energy was corralled by hockey.
One of his childhood homes had a backyard that sloped into Professors Lake in Brampton, Ontario. He could dart out the back door and hit the ice in 10 strides, at most. Food had to be brought to him. He "always had to be the last one (to leave)," Stephen Jefferson said.
While much of Frost's role with Danton and the other players in his flock has been called controversial, few doubt Frost's ability to cultivate hockey players, particularly feisty, edgy players. Frost stressed the importance of conditioning and weightlifting. He gave them enticing success.
"I've always been on championship teams," Danton said after his first day on the ice with a few Blues' veterans in September. Danton won an All-Ontario championship in youth hockey and played for the Memorial Cup, the Canadian junior championship. "I'm not used to losing. I absolutely hate losing, can't stand losing," he said.
Several coaches and agents who saw Danton and his teammates in their junior careers said it was clear they were, as one coach said, "on a different page than everybody else." Danton would be told not to fight and on the next shift he would fight. He was the captain of St. Michael's Majors for a while before yielding the "C" to Keefe, but both were traded to Barrie partially because of their on-ice freelancing, management said at the time.
Keefe and Danton - who served as the skilled Keefe's on-ice bodyguard while putting up his own points- powered Barrie to the Memorial Cup. It was at Barrie that Danton earned a reputation for his yapping. Reportedly, he didn't shake the hand of another team's star after a game. Teammates said that was part of Mike's game. His impishness. His competitiveness.
A quick look at his face would tell his teammates how he felt about how he was playing or how the team was playing, Finley said.
He was obsessed with his professed goal: making the NHL.
"As a (14- and 15-year-old), he was just an average player," said Mike McCann, the general manager of Barrie. "He just competed so hard, competed so, so hard. The word 'quit' wasn't in his vocabulary. He's a guy that could be an effective third-line center and he made himself into that."
Said Kevin Abrams, who runs the Pembroke (Ontario) Lumberkings, a youth team owned by Keefe (majority) and Danton (minority): "He beat the odds his whole career. He achieved through sheer determination."
"A second chance"
The Blues explored trading for Danton several times before they actually did. The scrappy forward had worn out his welcome in New Jersey - and vice versa. He had been suspended and had demanded a trade. The Blues knew all this, had been told about concern over how domineering his agent was, but finally worked out a deal last June.
Danton said it was "a second chance" at a career. He was 22.
Blues general manager Larry Pleau told Danton he would talk to him before training camp about what was expected from him. Pleau didn't have that talk. Didn't need to, he said. By the end of camp, Danton had earned a spot on the team and proven "he knew what his role was," Pleau said. After his first informal workout with the team, a veteran asked a reporter: "Can this guy play?" During training camp, the same vet said he answered his own question: Yes.
The Blues learned quickly about him on the ice. Off the ice it took time.
The Blues knew the clippings. They had heard about Danton's verbal fencing with Devils management, his open gripes about playing time. They knew he'd twice been suspended from the team. They slowly met a completely different Danton.
"When I'm on a road trip, I like to have fun, joke around; I'm that kind of roommate," Johnson said. "Initially, when we were first put together he would look at me as if I had 12 heads. Like, 'What kind of guy did I get stuck with?' It took some time and then he opened up."
He started hiding behind things, not always hiding things. He started joking around, especially as a chronic text-messager of cracks to his teammates.
"It's good to know he hasn't lost his sense of humor," said his mother, who saw her son for the first time in about 3 1/2 years in court this past week. "He always had a great one."
The season threatened to go on tilt when he returned from the shoulder injury - an injury he still needs repaired by surgery, his attorney said - and found little or no ice time. Frost was angry, almost going public with his complaint, a move that could have frustrated the franchise. Danton was counseled by teammates, mainly Johnson, to bide his time, be patient and "not selfish," as Danton said in the playoffs.
He heeded the advice, and he returned to the lineup. He played well enough to assure the Blues would qualify him when his contract runs out at the end of June and retain his rights for next season. The Blues may still; no decision is needed until June 30. Three days after he peaked with his first career NHL playoff goal, he was arrested for allegedly orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot to kill Frost, the prosecution asserts.
Days after reaching the peak of his fledgling NHL career, he was in jail, with his mental state questioned by family and friends and his future unclear.
"His personality, that's
what I don't want him to lose," Frost said. "This is not a
criminal. This is a kid who was scared and didn't know where to turn.
He's just a good kid and once he gets the help he needs he will be all
Mike Danton called a Post-Dispatch reporter from the Clinton County Jail on Friday night to read his first public statement since his arrest on murder-for-hire charges. The statement, which Danton wrote in pen on two yellow legal pad pieces of paper, fixated on his strained relationship with his parents - a subplot to the case that has gotten attention from the news media in recent weeks.
Danton said he was feeling "OK, under the circumstances, you know." But otherwise he would not answer questions, saying all he could do was read his statement. As he read the statement, he was calm, direct and spoke slowly, even repeating phrases to make sure his words were copied verbatim.
His attorney, Robert Haar, said he knew nothing of the statement and did not know his client was going to speak publicly.
Danton's statement outlines allegations of "constant physical and emotional abuse" and the squalid nature of his upbringing - all claims that his parents and friends of the family have contested in recent weeks.
Danton went on to list in graphic detail allegations of a "very troublesome" upbringing and complaints about the family's living conditions, including the amount of toilet paper in the house and clothing he was given to wear.
Danton's best friends, Sheldon Keefe and Shawn Cation, and Dave Frost, who has served as coach and agent for all three, have said things similar to Danton's allegations.
Frost, his agent now, called the Post-Dispatch reporter Friday evening for a phone number at which Danton could call the reporter. Frost said previously this week that he and Danton's Ottawa-based attorney, Michael Edelson, had been approached by Danton about making a statement.
Danton said Friday that he wrote the statement over the past few days.
In the statement, Danton first thanked Frost, his friends as well as the St. Louis Blues organization and players. He then went on to criticize his family.
"Their recent publicity rants are nothing new to myself," he said. "Their deceptions and lies throughout the past three weeks are a sign of the erratic lifestyle that I have lived. I have changed my last name to fully distance myself from the Jeffersons and in no means have had or will have anything to do with them in the future."
After being read the full text of the statement, Stephen Jefferson, Danton's father, responded:
"I'm really hurt by it. His mother will be floored. That's Dave Frost talking. You'd think that his brother and his mother would remember these things, and they don't at all.
"It hurts the family to hear
that type of nonsense from him, but it just shows how badly Mike needs