Hockey: Ex-NHLer Mike Danton to play for Saint Mary's; report

Mark McGwire confessing to using steroids the year he set the home run record, you could see coming. Mike Danton playing CIS hockey at Saint Mary's has a bit more man-bites-dog.
"A huge factor in (SMU coach Trevor) Stienburg’s support for Danton’s request was discussions with his own father. Malcolm Stienburg, an ordained minister, is a former prison chaplain and a senior member of the national parole board.

" 'Second chances,' Stienburg said. 'I grew up with them as part of my life. There’s no question it’s the right thing to do. He has paid the price for a mistake he’s admitted was a huge mistake. He’s already been punished for it.' "
Chris Cochrane
Cochrane's column notes that "more parole hurdles to overcome than earlier expected" has made it unclear whether 29-year-old Danton would suit up for No. 8-ranked Saint Mary's this season. The former St. Louis Blue is still on parole until Jan. 21, 2011 and faces conditions on travelling from province to province. However, the Huskies players were on board (Stienburg: "I was challenged by my players (to accept Danton) for all the right reasons.").

It is a bombshell, full of a lot of moral questions. Personally, one does wonder whether it is best for tragic cases such as Danton and Theo Fleury to come back to a similar environment where their lives spiralled out of control. A clean break seems like a good idea. However, they need some normalcy and hockey is all they know.

There is also the question, which Cochrane addresses, of whether CIS hockey's big tent has room for 29-year-old ex-pros. It is legal if he's at SMU as a full-time student, but is it right?
"The question that will inevitably be debated concerns whether or not Danton should be dressing for a university hockey team?

"My take is that aging former NHL players aren’t what university programs should be seeking. But that’s an argument for another day.

"Set aside those factors and focus on the Danton criminal past — which is why the Danton case draws so much attention — and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to play university hockey, for SMU or any other school, if he meets the necessary academic requirements."
Like Rob Pettapiece says, this blog doesn't take itself so seriously that it has editorial stances. Saint Mary's believes this can work. Stienburg had a benefit of tapping into his dad's parole board experience before taking this on. That's a best stab at being circumspect about an issue which surely will be hot-button if e-migo Greg Wyshynski's Puck Daddy post is an indication:

While that's all very pious of the coach and his father, there's also no question that the St. Mary's hockey Web site mentions nothing about being a halfway-house-on-skates for wayward former professionals who choose to become Canadian college athletes because they're out of options.

"(SMU athletic director Steve) Sarty told TSN that it's all about forgiveness, and that 'if we say no to Mike Danton, who are we going to say yes to?' We'll assume that he's asked enough boosters, students, parents and members of the community this question to know the answer before inviting Mike Danton onto his college hockey team."

The 29-year-old Danton is the blank slate. The interview he did with Rogers Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos in November really answered nothing.

A particular question is how Saint Mary's plans to keep this from being a media circus.

The purely hockey questions are on hold until Danton is cleared. The most recent ex-NHLer to play in CIS, Jared Aulin, averaged more than two points per game (14 goals, 34 points in 16 games) in a half-season with the Calgary Dinos two seasons ago. Aulin, now playing for Syracuse in the AHL, at the time was four years younger and only a year removed from playing in the pros, so that was different.

Paroled ex-NHLer headed to Saint Mary's; It's all about 'second chances,' Huskies coach says (Chris Cochrane, Halifax Chronicle-Herald)
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  1. I'm all for giving folks a second chance, and if Mike Danton nee Jefferson wants to play CIS hockey and Trevor Steinberg and his players are willing to partner in his rehabilitaton -- even better.

    The age thing doesn't bother me either. On most campuses less than 75% of undergraduate students are "traditional age" (i.e. came straight from high school), so Danton will actually be representing part of the university demographic.

    A university campus is a pretty "safe" environment with all sorts of support services that hopefully should be able to help a troubled man like Danton.

    On the ice, CIS hockey, and AUS hockey in particular, is a skills-focused game. Danton probably isn't going to have to deal with knuckle-heads trying to make a name for themselves by challenging to dance, and should be able to getting the rust off his skill game.

    As far as I'm concerned, where better place than the CIS to become a student-athlete and try to get on with his life ...

  2. I want to know what allows a player with 92 NHL games and 69 AHL games in his past to play for a university team. Is it that nearly six years have passed since he was pro? Obviously the cap on "number of pro games played" is more than one for CIS play, but is it more than 150?

    Cochrane wouldn't write "The school decided Monday that he meets eligibility requirements" unless, you know, the school decided Monday that Danton meets eligibility requirements. So SMU must have some reasoning behind this...but what?

    And if Danton's eligible, shouldn't we then allow every single hockey player with less than 150 pro games played, with six years since his last game, and a high school equivalency to lace up for the local university team? This doesn't smell right.

  3. Rob,

    The rule as I understand it is that your "eligibility clock" starts with your age-21 season). Danton played two pro seasons after his 21st birthday (he was 23 when it all went down). He'd still have 3, maybe only 2 years left.

    As previously noted, "university athlete" and "amateur athlete" are not the same thing as CIS defines it. Perhaps they need to look at it; when you have 2 ex-NHLers (potentially) in 3 seasons and former CFL practice-squad players (Western running back Da'Shawn Thomas) in your league, maybe you're stretching the rules.

  4. I'm not really concerned with Danton's pro past; he'll be good, sure, but he's not going to tear up the league given that most CIS hockey players are mid-20s. If CIS was a kids' league along the lines of major junior or NCAA, this would be more of a problem. What really concerns me are the PR implications, especially considering that Danton hasn't really explained what happened or seemed repentant at all. This will get way more coverage than any other element of CIS hockey, and that's not a good thing for the league in my mind.

  5. I don't know guys, how does the old saying go? Any publicity is good publicity? Granted it will turn into a freak show for the first little while but if he pans out it may be good for the 2 or 3 years he is in the league. If SMU makes nationals then even more press.

    Good or bad? Personal choice and the jury is still out. I'll let you know if/when he starts playing.

  6. Weird story... I cannot really understand why SMU get into this...

    The Danton story leaves a bitter taste and the fact he's going to play with 19 y/o students does nothing to help...

  7. Danton has played three years of professional hockey and therefore would have two years of CIS eligibility. If he starts now — assuming he has already registered into the required class-load to play CIS sport — he'd have one more year of CIS eligibility after this season, to my understanding.

  8. Anonymous is correct he is eligible and as I read the regs (which I have on my screen) he turned 21 in October 2001 - a season he was suspended by New Jersey and didn't play. Therefore, he actually has only used two years of eligibility according to the CIS, therefore he is eligible for three seasons.

    The only hiccup could be if he is in academic standing (meaning 60% average in his final year of high school or equivilant - meaning if he took courses while in prision etc....).

    I've previously dealt with the former Mike Jefferson as a broadcaster in the OHL at the time and was not impressed by him and the rest of the Frosty gang.

    That said, as much as I loathe to say it at times, I believe that if someone does the time, that they have the right to resume their life as a normal citizen. As such, I wish him the best of luck if this is a way for him to get his life back in order and on the right track.

    If this is a way to kick-start a hockey career, I'm less of a fan of this move by SMU.

    All I wish for this very troubled person is to find peace with his issues and to leave as normal a life as possible if this story does pan out.

  9. If a coach with the background of a Trevor Stienburg is willing to give the young man a second chance -- and Trevor has the support of the school and the team -- then who does it hurt. I don't think Stienburg's motive in this is to close the gap on UNB. Danton is probably a guy who needs the game more than the game needs him, and if he can grind out a university degree, good for him.
    I think Stienburg is looking at the person more than the player in this instance.

  10. I have a question regarding eligibility. Does it pertain simply to pro hockey, or other types as well. It seems a bit odd that you can play pro prior to your 21 year old year which will not count, but playing something like NCAA will. We have a player on our team who played his 18/19 year old years at Dartmouth (or 17/18 year old year if you subscribe to the September cutoff), and is thus now in 2nd year (this year being his second playing CIS), but his eligibility is listed as 4th year.

  11. Within CIS hockey, playing NCAA or CIS hockey counts for the same amount of eligibility, and same trandfer rules: you have to sit out for a year (365 days) between your last game with your previous NCAA or CIS team and your first game with your new CIS team, and your playing years with the previous NCAA or CIS team count against your maximum five years of CIS eligibility. Age had no bearing - it only matters with players who played a bit of pro up until they turn 21.

  12. David handled the question perfectly ... though it does seem odd, eh, that the 21-year-old who played a full season of pro might have more eligibility than someone who went NCAA at 18.

  13. This is an anonymous comment from another thread, mistakenly posted in the top 10 thread, and its author asked for it to be moved here:


    I have no problem with a person being 29 plus in years and playing University hockey, if he’s good enough to make the team then good for him.

    But I really think the CIS should draw the line on eligibility at a reasonable point ... if you’ve played more than a full year of NHL hockey I think your varsity days should be over …

    Mike Danton should be playing for the Allan Cup not the Cavendish Cup.

  14. It's the University Cup; presently sponsored by Cavendish....

  15. I wonder what "bitter taste" Deux fans was referring to?
    Perhaps the fact that a loathsome excuse for a human being like David Frost is a free man, while this kid did serious time for plotting what a lot of folk wanted to do anyway?
    Hockey Canada should declare Frost personae non grata in every hockey rink in the land...including the PMC.
    His face should be posted on NOT WANTED posters, and if spotted, asked to leave the premises.
    I don't want him anywhere near young hockey players.
    This creep has ruined enough lives already.

  16. I was unaware when my son was drafted to the WHL at 14 years of age-that there was the possibility of him benefiting 5 years of eligibility to compete against convicted felons - Perhaps the SCOUTS need to better inform families of players at the onset giving parents their right to informed decision making. Get real people this is not about a guy who found himself on the wrong side of the law -the bit about the father ex-con turned minister is all smoke and mirrors - more to the truth -this is about a university willing to do anything to win a championship at the expense of a whole lot of other people with whom they have clearly no regard for. Clearly he is paying his debt back to society, is that not what the justice system requires so this fact is a non issue - is his education eligibility valid? I guess the CHL feels it is! Question is should players who financially benefit from contracts still be entitled to paid educations at this point to play sports because they have no other outlet at this calibre to play in.
    Danon's right to suit up in the CIS is just wrong on soo many levels. But yes everyone has the right to an education.

  17. I understand your concern as a parent, but where were you 2 months ago?

    Also, not to be preachy but it is your responsibility to educate yourself, not have some scout tell you about what might happen years down the line.

    Also, you are aware there is an active player in the Ontario Hockey League who was convicted of manslaughter in a Canadian court, and is playing in the league?

    Tell me why we hear scarcely a word about the killer playing in the OHL and the person in CIS who did his time and has tried to make good. Two young men are both trying to put things right and lead productive lives, and we should wish them the best. It's not fair one escapes scrutiny because of the restrictions on free speech in this country.