Professional hockey players can be bruising and punishing on the ice. When they’re caught, the worst thing that can happen is some time spent in the penalty box, a fine, or some unpaid time off. When these brawny rule breakers step off the ice and break the law, their boundary-pushing actions have a lot more consequences. While NHL players are better known for their partying ways than committing serious crimes, a number have spent some quality time behind bars and were hit with eye-watering fines.
Here are seven instances where professional hockey players took their enforcing ways a little too far and ended up with a criminal record.
#1. Mike Danton
A native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mike Danton started playing junior hockey in 1996 with the Quinte Hawks of the Metro Junior A Hockey League. He spent a number of successful years playing for teams like the Sarnia Sting and St. Michael’s Majors. Danton was the assistant captain of the 2000 Barrie Colts team, which went on to win the Ontario Hockey League Championship. That same year, Danton was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL draft.
Between 2000 and 2003, Danton played 19 games with the New Jersey Devils where he racked up two goals and spent 35 minutes in the penalty box. He was actually suspended by the Devils twice for disciplinary reasons, sitting out the entire 2001-02 season. While playing for the Devils, he became estranged from his family and changed his last name from Jefferson to Danton.
Around this time, Danton was at odds with Lou Lamoriello, the Devils’ general manager, which led to him being traded to the St. Louis Blues. It was in St. Louis that Danton played his first full year in the NHL; he played 68 games, had seven goals and five assists, and racked up 141 penalty minutes.
Despite a successful career in the NHL and bright future, this also ended up being his last year in the NHL. On April 16, 2004, two days after the St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Danton, who was then just 23, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
You only need one word to describe Danton’s case: bizarre.
During his time in St. Louis, Danton was accused of trying on three occasions to hire hitmen to murder his agent, David Frost. Danton never denied trying to hire a hitman, but he said the intended target was his father, not Frost.
The first hitman he tried to hire was a bouncer at a strip club. The second hitman ended up being a police dispatcher, who in turn tipped off the FBI. Danton apparently didn’t say exactly who the target was, but he mentioned when the intended target would be at his home.
It didn’t matter. On April 16, 2004, Danton was arrested. Authorities alleged that he and Frost had a dispute over Danton’s purported alcohol use and promiscuity. Others speculated at the time that Danton wanted to silence a friend who threatened to expose him as a homosexual. Frost, meanwhile, said Danton was suffering from depression and other mental health issues.
At the time, Frost denied that the arrest had anything to do with Danton’s sexuality. “We’re going to get him some help, some treatment,” he said in 2004. “He’s had some issues from his younger years that he needs to deal with.”
A November 2005 documentary aired on CBC looked at the friendship Danton had with Frost. The documentary alleged that Frost had a very controlling relationship with Danton. His parents even said that Frost cultivated and maintained a Svengali-like grasp on Danton.
The documentary focuses on a taped phone conversation that Danton had with Frost shortly after being arrested. At the end of the conversation, Frost asked Danton, “OK, you love me?” Danton replied, “Yes.” To which Frost demanded, “Say it!” Danton then answered, “I love you.”
On July 16, Danton pleaded guilty to conspiring to have Frost murdered, and on November 8, 2004, he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. He was transferred from a prison in the U.S. to a facility near Kingston, Ontario, in March 2009. There, he was eligible for parole and released after serving five years.
During the parole hearing, Danton said Frost was the not the intended victim, that there had been a mix-up. His father was the one who was supposed to die.
Danton said he became paranoid and believed someone was going to his apartment to kill him. He blamed the paranoia partly on his use of stimulants and sleeping pills.
Danton said he grew up in a dysfunctional home, and his relationship with his parents became so strained that he had to change his middle and last names. At 11, Frost became his coach; he clung to the man as a father figure. Danton claimed that Frost has been unfairly portrayed in the media.
#2. Steve Durbano
Steve Durbano is a hockey legend. Born December 12, 1951 in Toronto, Ontario, he was drafted No. 13 in the first round of the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft. Over the next eight seasons, Durbano played for four different NHL teams: the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kansas City Scouts, and Colorado Rockies.
During his stint in the NHL, Durbano played 220 games, where he had 13 goals and 60 assists. What he is most known for was the amount of time he spent in the penalty box: a whopping 1,127 minutes, almost 19 hours in total, or five minutes per game. The journeyman defenseman was called “Demolition Durby” and “Mental Case Durbano.”
Durbano’s toughness was legendary, both on and off the ice. He was an alcoholic and known for getting into barroom brawls wherever he went. Had he only gotten into bar fights, it might not have been too bad.