University Sports

Walling: Saint Mary's to welcome Danton

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Alex J. Walling
1/11/2010 10:15:47 PM
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There is something about the month of January and Saint Mary's athletics.

Last year it was about a Hec Crighton winner, quarterback Erik Glavic, leaving SMU for the University of Calgary. Now, it's about a controversial and troubled former NHL player trying to come to the Halifax university.

Saint Mary's is prepared to welcome and accept Mike Danton as a student.

Remember Mike Danton? His story is well known. He was sentenced to jail as a result of a failed murder-for-hire plot after being arrested in the United States in 2004. He did time - around five and a half years - and this past September he earned a full parole.

Danton's relationship with his agent David Frost has been an ongoing saga for years.

The university didn't want to talk about this matter and promised to release a statement on Tuesday but it's almost 100% sure, according to SMU's Athletic Director Steve Sarty, that Danton will be a student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax as soon as Wednesday or Thursday and may be practicing with the hockey team (the Huskies) by week's end.

Danton has applied to become a full time student at SMU and the paperwork is but a day or two from being completed.

"It's just a matter of crossing a few dots," a spokesperson told me.

In fact, if this move is to happen then Danton has to be in class by Friday of this week or there could be some academic backlash. The new semester started last week.

This all started when Danton contacted Huskies coach Trevor Stienburg.

"He contacted me last week and we went from there," is what the SMU coach told TSN.ca. "It was an interesting call and I thought about it a lot."

Stienburg told me that he talked about the possibility of Danton joining the team with his players and that they thought Danton deserved a chance.

And it's an interesting twist that Stienburg has some association with paroles. His dad Malcolm Stienburg has been around prisons as a chaplain and a member of the National Parole Board.

One of the people who stayed for a while at the Stienburg residence was none other than Steven Truscott, the Canadian man who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1959 but wasn't formally acquitted until 2007.

Saint Mary's athletic director Steve Sarty told TSN that it's about second chances.

"We are a humanitarian institute and believe that people, be they Mike Danton or others, deserve a second chance and we are prepared to give it to him. If we say no to Mike Danton who will say yes to him?"

Now mind you Danton is no stranger to Halifax. He was here as a member of the Barrie Colts in the 2000 Memorial Cup.  Back then his name was Mike Jefferson and his conduct - along with the Colts - was awful and pathetic.

I recall him at an opening press conference wanting to hit, hurt and harm Brad Richards, who played with the eventual winners, the Rimouski Oceanic.

That team was coached by Bill Stewart, who had tried to smuggle a kid through customs by hiding him with the luggage of the team bus.

Jefferson was one of many Colts who acted up and was disrespectful while the national anthem played in the first game. His conduct and and that of the team was so bad that CHL Commissioner David Branch fined the team $5000, which was a huge fine when you consider it was ten years ago.

Both Jefferson and Stewart ran away from the media after getting beaten in the final.

But, as they say, that was then.

Danton's NHL record states he played two games with New Jersey in 2001-2002 and 17 more the next year. He was traded to St Louis, where he got into 68 games in 2003-04.

He was arrested on April 4th, 2004.

In July of 2004, Danton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause a person to travel in interstate commerce to commit murder.  He got seven and a half years and was transferred to a Canadian prison in Kingston in March 2009 and was eligible for a full parole last September. He is on parole until January 2011.

Danton is now 29 years old and has stated that he believes that with hard work, effort and a chance that he can get back to pro hockey and maybe the NHL.

According to Stienburg, Danton has been taking university correspondence courses and would be registered for three courses at Saint Mary's.

So the university is prepared to accept him. The hockey team, if he can make it, is prepared to have him and all that is missing is the official "okay" from the Parole Board.

"It's all up to the Parole Board and they have the last and final decision in this matter. It's their call," Stienburg told TSN.ca.

Athletic Director Sarty seems to think it is simply a matter of days while Stienburg, who may have more knowledge of the parole system due to his dad's knowledge, says it may take "more than a couple of days.

"This is not an age issue or a hockey issue. It's a case of a Canadian citizen wanting to go to university. It's about giving someone another chance," Stienburg told TSN.ca.

For TSN.ca, I'm Alex J. Walling.

Alex J. can be reached via email at:  ajw@eastlink.ca

Mike Danton (Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
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