Mike Danton's future seemed bright last week. The St. Louis rookie, a fourth-line center, played surprisingly well in a playoff series against the Sharks, even scoring his first postseason goal. But off the ice Danton's life was unraveling. Last Friday morning, 12 hours after his team was eliminated, Danton, 23, was arrested by FBI agents at the San Jose airport for his alleged role in a murder-for-hire plot.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., Danton called his friend Katie Wolfmeyer, 19, on April 14 and said a Canadian hit man was on his way to kill him over a debt. Danton asked Wolfmeyer if she knew anyone who would murder the stalker for $10,000. Wolfmeyer put Danton in touch with an unidentified male acquaintance, and in the wee hours of April 15 Danton, who was with the Blues in San Jose, called him and instructed him to kill a man who would be at Danton's Brentwood, Mo., apartment mat night and make the murder look like a botched burglary. Danton said he could keep $3,000 in cash and valuables in his bedroom safe as a down payment. Wolfmeyer's acquaintance agreed to the plan, then contacted the FBI. On Thursday night, while the Blues' season was ending in a 3-1 loss, Wolfmeyer and her acquaintance went to Danton's apartment, where they were confronted by a man who said he was Danton's father. ( Danton is estranged from his family.) The pair fled, and Wolfmeyer was arrested.
The unidentified man in Danton's apartment, the target of the alleged plot, told the FBI that he and Danton had argued two days earlier over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol." In an FBI-monitored call on Friday, Danton began sobbing when the man asked why Danton had tried to have him killed and said he was afraid the man was going to leave him. Danton's agent, Dave Frost, told the Toronto Star that his client is delusional and suffering from paranoia. He also denied speculation that Danton was trying to kill a man who threatened to out him as a homosexual.
Danton is no stranger to controversy. He was suspended twice by the Devils, who drafted him in 2000, for refusing to report for minor league assignments. In 2002 he changed his name to Danton from Jefferson to disassociate himself from his family in Brampton, Ont. On Sunday, Danton's father, Steve Jefferson, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his relationship with his son ended "all because of David Frost." The agent, who did not respond to messages left by SI, has been a mentor and father figure to Danton since 1996, when Danton played for a junior team in Quinte, Ont., for which Frost was an assistant coach. At one point Danton and three other Quinte players roomed together at a hotel with Frost. Before he became an agent, Frost was banned from coaching by the Ontario Hockey Association and the Metro Toronto Hockey League for on-and off-ice problems, including a 1997 incident in which he pleaded guilty to assault after allegedly punching a Quinte player during a game. Several people have expressed concern at the influence Frost has over players, and one owner described Danton's relationship with Frost as "cultlike." (Frost has dismissed that as "crazy.")
Last week Danton's life took its strangest twist when he was arrested, leaving his teammates stunned. Said Blues center Doug Weight, "It's beyond shock."