KINGSTON, Ont. — Former NHL player Mike Danton was granted full parole Friday after admitting to the National Parole Board the target of his murder-for-hire plot was his father, and not his controversial and oft-scrutinized former agent, David Frost.
As conditions of his release, Danton is to have no direct or indirect contact with his father, Steve Jefferson, and no face-to-face contact with Frost, unless pre-approved by his parole officer.
Danton said he hopes to return to playing hockey.
A native of Brampton, Ont., Danton pleaded guilty in 2004 in the United States in the failed plot that prosecutors alleged targeted Frost, his former junior coach and agent who became his father figure.
But at Friday’s hearing, Danton said the intended target was his father, not Frost.
American authorities alleged Frost was the target, but Danton said Frost “turned out to be” the victim, but he was not the “intended victim.”
The confusing distinction was clarified after a somewhat combative discussion with board member Michael Crowley at the hearing, which was otherwise largely congenial.
Danton, who spent parts of three seasons playing for the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils, explained that after canvassing a St. Louis club he frequented, trying to recruit a hit man, he called a girl he had been dating and she put him in touch with someone.
“The agreement was there would be $10,000 paid out to have the person I believed was coming to kill me taken care of,” Danton said.
He said paranoia had gripped him, which he blamed partly on the use of stimulants and sleeping pills, and he believed someone was going to his apartment to murder him.
“Why on Earth would you believe that?” Crowley asked. “That’s like talking about the bogeyman.”
“Over the years there were conversations that pointed to someone who would have interest in ending my life and ending (Frost’s) life,” Danton said, adding he received “verbal confirmation” from a family member.
He told the hit man to kill someone who would be in his apartment over two days, and Crowley noted Frost was there at the time. But Danton said Frost wasn’t the person he believed was coming to kill him.
“It’s clear that you thought it was your father who would do you harm,” Crowley said.
“Right,” Danton replied.
The revelation illustrates the bizarre saga of Mike Danton, his father and Frost.
Danton said his childhood was dysfunctional and the relationship between him and his parents, Steve and Sue Jefferson, became so strained that he changed his last name from Jefferson, hasn’t talked to his father since he was about 15 and admitted to tearing up and sending back the letters they wrote to him in prison.
“I refer to biological family as Steve and Sue,” Danton said. “I don’t think of them as family.”
When Frost became his coach at age 11, Danton clung to him as a father figure. He said the way Frost has been portrayed in court testimony and in the media — as a violent and controlling, all-encompassing presence in his players’ lives — as a big misconception.
Frost was acquitted last year of four counts of sexual exploitation relating to Frost’s tenure as coach of the Junior A Quinte Hawks team in eastern Ontario in 1996 and 1997, a team of which Danton was a member.