Mike Jefferson was five years old when he informed his father
that he would one day play professional hockey, a long-shot dream
Stephen Jefferson was more than happy to help his son pursue.
When Mike was a preschooler, Jefferson, who owns a catering and
vending business in Brampton, Ont., would park his coffee truck
for a few hours every morning and take Mike skating. Over the
years he happily spent thousands of dollars and many a
frostbitten hour indulging his boy's obsession. "If your sons are
involved with sports, they don't have time to get into trouble,"
Jefferson said on Sunday. "Keep them busy, and they have a chance
to contribute to society and not become a burden on the system."
He and his wife, Susan, were sitting at the kitchen table in
their tidy Brampton home, fighting back tears as the irony of his
words sank in: Their son, the 23-year-old Blues center now known
as Mike Danton, was sitting in a California jail, charged with
conspiring to hire a hit man. (Danton is expected to plead not
As of Monday authorities hadn't publicly identified the target of
Danton's plot, but a source close to the FBI's investigation told
SI that it was David Frost, Danton's longtime agent and mentor.
At first Frost was thought to be an innocent victim. But
investigators shifted their focus last week and are now looking
into Frost's past behavior for motives for Danton's alleged plan.
They're finding an agent-player relationship that's highly
unusual. A decade ago Jefferson essentially handed his son's
hockey future to Frost, an intense, abrasive local coach with
little to recommend him as a dream maker. Frost took Danton and a
few other young Brampton players, including current Lightning
minor leaguer Sheldon Keefe, under his wing and soon became a
controversial figure in Ontario hockey circles. In 1995 he was
banned by a Toronto youth league for forging signatures on
player-release documents. Two years later he pleaded guilty to
assault after punching a player on the Quinte Hawks, a junior
team for which he was assistant coach.
He also developed a reputation as a Svengali on skates. In their
early teens Danton and Keefe often ate meals and spent nights at
Frost's house. They and at least two other players lived in a
motel with Frost while the group was with Quinte. As the boys
climbed the junior hockey ladder, Frost, who often guided their
on-ice moves with hand signals from the stands when he wasn't
their coach, kept them isolated from their families and
teammates. (Danton changed his name in 2002 and hasn't spoken to
his parents in two years.) "I kept thinking Mike would get away
from him when he got older," Jefferson says. "I turned a blind
eye to everything."
According to a source close to the investigation, the Ontario
Provincial Police investigated during the summer of 2001 claims
that Frost abused a player at an Ontario cottage he used as a
retreat for his group. No criminal charges were brought, but the
investigation is ongoing. Frost, meanwhile, continued to keep
close tabs on Danton after his protege made the NHL. This year
Frost, who did not return calls from SI, attended every Blues
home game over the season's final six weeks. He hovered near the
Blues' dressing room after games, and the two would even talk by
cellphone during pregame skates.
A source close to the investigation believes Danton may have felt
the suffocating weight of the attention from Frost and snapped.
Whatever the scenario, Stephen Jefferson sees his son as the
victim. "Mike's just a puppet for Frost; he hasn't made a
decision on his own since he was 15," Jefferson says. "It's
almost lucky that he's in jail, because now Frost can't get to
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE BRODNER
"I'm not sure if she's trash or tramp." --THE BEAT, PAGE 24