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THE LOST DREAM: THE STORY OF MIKE DANTON, DAVID FROST, AND A BROKEN CANADIAN FAMILY by Steve Simmons (Penguin), 257 pages, $32 cloth. Susan G. Cole interviews Simmons about his book at Word On The Street, Sunday (September 25). See listing. Rating: NNN
As the National Hockey League wrestles with its demons – rioting fans, the death of three ex-NHLers in the off-season, star Sidney Crosby still not ready to play – there lingers the whiff of corruption and neglect at the centre of Mike Danton’s story.
Danton is the guy arrested – two days after his team, the St. Louis Blues, was eliminated from the 2004 Stanley Cup – and then convicted for trying to secure a hit man to kill his agent, David Frost.
The facts remain murky, mainly because Danton eventually claimed it was his father he wanted dead. Now out of prison, he maintains a relationship with Frost and will talk to no one about the case.
That includes Toronto Sun sports columnist Steve Simmons, whose book The Lost Dream doesn’t have Danton’s voice but does paint a picture of a hockey world that cannot, or will not, protect its vulnerable players, and a legal system that failed them miserably.
According to Simmons, Frost controlled a cadre of players from the time they were in their early teens, alienating them from their families, initiating them into sex play – sometimes three-ways in which he participated – and making sure their allegiance was to him and him only.
Coaches and officials in junior, minor and major leagues knew he was a problem but were unable to loosen his grip on the players, especially Danton, who was plainly desperate when he asked a woman he barely knew to help him find a hit man.
Frost had twice come in contact with the justice system, first when Danton’s younger brother Tom claimed Frost abused him on a summer trip with the coach’s boys. No charges were laid. After Danton’s conviction, Frost went on trial for sexually interfering with his boys, but the prosecution failed to make the case.
Simmons’s account of the cases is profoundly disturbing, as is the entire book. The Lost Dream won’t light up any literary juries, but it’s a cautionary tale for parents obsessed with making their boys hockey stars, and a serious indictment of hockey culture in general.
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