Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Minor hockey once again to find itself under a micro-scope

It’s a hockey horror story with seemingly no hope for a happy ending. Today’s announcement that Dave Frost is facing numerous charges in an Ontario court; one of sexual assault and twelve of exploitation will send shivers though minor hockey associations across the country. The headlines today just the latest twist in a decidedly unseemly story.

The details of his alleged misbehavior of course are a closely guarded Crown secret, some will be made clear on Wednesday when he faces a judge in Napanee, Ontario, a court date will be set and the next chapter in the controversial life Dave Frost will begin.

But as the justice system in Ontario prepares its case and seeks punishment for what will no doubt be categorized as heinous offences, the old stories of Frost’s past will once again come to the forefront.

The former minor hockey coach and player agent most recently made headlines as the target of a murder for hire plan by a former client, Mike Danton, a client that looked to Frost as a father figure, turning his back on his family and becoming so despondent that he sought to have someone kill Frost.

Then as with everything that seems to revolve around Frost, things are never quite as they seem. Danton, who used to be known as Mike Jefferson had a falling out with his family while playing for Frost in Mississauga. The family as would be expected has blamed Frost for the change in their son’s demeanor and his abandonment of his blood relations.

Yet as the Ottawa Citizen has shown in a published story today, the Jefferson family homestead may not have been quite as nurturing as one would like or as they might wish to suggest. It’s a fascinating tale though in a sad way, one which does not paint the culture of minor hockey well, and which perhaps sets the tone for how this one family unit became such an unraveled mess.

Danton for his part provided a 36 page letter to the paper, outlining his memories of his family life and they make for depressing reading, Frost it seems in Danton’s mind filled a void that his blood family couldn’t provide. Yet, in the end, Danton wished for Frost to be dead, he obviously was a troubled young man, who nobody it seems was really looking out for. Instead his eventual celebrity as an NHL player seemed to be more of a meal ticket for far too many people.

Currently serving a 7 ½ year sentence in an American jail for his murderous plot, Danton is attempting to be transferred to a Canadian prison, where a parole possibility would kick in and remove him from incarceration. Because of that, he was vague in his correspondence with the Citizen about his dealings with Frost.

Key portions of their time together have been kept unrecorded, providing gaps that are hard to piece together and leaving far more questions than providing answers as to what went through his head to wish to have his agent and surrogate father killed.

With today’s charges against Frost, there will be many who will retrace his steps over his many years of involvement in hockey, both minor and professional. His contacts reach deep into the NHL stratosphere, from a close friendship with Bob Goodenow to marrying the daughter of a famous NHL referee, Frost has been a part of many levels of the game. His connections no doubt provided him with an entry into the lives of many a young hockey player and their families.

Surely there must have been warning signs or concerns over the many years. So one has to wonder just what the organizations he had business with during his years were doing in the way of background checking and investigation for the good of the game.

Results tend to gloss over concerns, and Frost did have results with his minor hockey teams and in preparing players for an NHL career. But one has to wonder at what ultimate cost.

As the charges play out in an Ontario court room over the next months, perhaps some questions should be asked of those in authority wherever Mr. Frost traveled. There seems to be far too many red flags that have been run up the pole over the years, flags that were either ignored or not taken as seriously as they should have been. Sure he was banned from some associations and suspended by others, but somehow he managed to keep on finding ways to stay involved in the game, and you have to wonder how?

Far too many lives seem to have been negatively impacted over the years not just in this story but in many others, hockey as a sport needs to take a close look at how the culture of the sport in this country is getting out of control. It seems that the image of the sport was always of more concern than those that were playing the games and became victims because of it.

The television commercials and talking heads of the media always tell us it’s supposed to be about the kids. But by reading the stories of the twists and turns with this one story, it seems that nobody, not one person was thinking about the kids.

And that’s a criminal shame.

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