Danton: SMU welcome has been warm

Education top priority for former NHLer as he rebuilds his life.


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Danton at Saint Mary's University during his first public appearance since leaving prison. Photo: Adam Miller

Mike Danton considers a university education his final shot at a normal life.

“One thing I’ve recognized is, I’ve already got three strikes,” said the ex-NHLer, who has spent the past five-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. “If I screw this up, there’s absolutely nothing else for me."

Danton hit the books at Saint Mary’s University last week and hopes to use his troubled past to help shape his future and the lives of others.

“I think that my experiences … can help with sports psychology and children who have similar backgrounds to me. So getting a sociology degree is paramount in what I want to do,” he said, citing coaching as another possible career.

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Danton laces up for practice with the SMU Huskies hockey team. Photo: Adam Miller

Danton fielded questions from media Thursday morning at the university in his first pubic appearance since leaving prison.

The 29-year-old, who was parolled in September, is taking introduction to psychology, sociology and English literature. He said classes are going well, boasting 100 per cent on his first three tests.

Danton filled out a few university application forms for the winter semester, but SMU went the extra mile to make it an “easy choice,” he said.

“They opened up their arms to me, they proved they were going to give me that second chance that I was looking for,” said Danton, sporting a three quarter length T-shirt.

Danton, who is paying his own way through SMU, said the students have been receptive to his daily appearances on campus.

“The first couple of days, I got double and triple takes. A week after that, everyone’s very cordial.”

“I’ve had comments from students on campus, from people at grocery stores and I haven’t heard one negative thing,” he said, adding he often hears students yell, “good luck” and  “we wish you the best.”

Matt Anderson, president of the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, said he senses a similar vibe around SMU.

“The majority of perception has been fairly positive,” said Anderson. “You get students that might not feel safe but I think that reaction may be over-reactionary.”

Danton confirmed he would play for the Huskies hockey team before the season closes. After dusting off his gear Thursday for the first time in almost six years, Danton was reminded of his love for the game.

“One thing I’ve missed is that camaraderie in the dressing room, that close-knit feeling,” he said. “I felt that immediately here, all the way down from the players, the coaching staff, to the front office, and I saw it first hand when I got here within the whole campus.”

Trevor Stienburg, head coach of the Huskies and Danton’s new roommate, said the team is happy to be a part of his “second chance.”

“We have to give him something where he can feel good about getting up in the morning,” said Stienburg.“It’s part of the integration process. It’s part of what’s going to help Mike get better.

The NHL is not a distant dream – Danton would like to go pro again. But his priorities have shifted.

“I’ve been removed from the game for six years … A lot of time to think,” he chuckled.

“What I do understand now is that in order for me to be successful in hockey, I need to be successful in school … I’m a student-athlete, not an athlete-student.”


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