Mike Danton strolled calmly into The Tower at Saint Mary’s University Thursday wearing a baseball shirt and jeans, fresh out of psychology class.
If you didn’t know his story — a brief NHL career followed by a five-year prison term for plotting to murder his former agent — you wouldn’t have guessed it, at least until you saw the swarm of media and cameras that awaited inside.
“Excuse the dress code,” he said with a grin in his first public appearance since enrolling at Saint Mary’s. “I wasn’t going to wear a suit to (class), so this is me in school.”
The high-profile 29-year-old is far from just another student in school, admitting he got “double and triple looks” his first week on campus. He was released from prison on parole in September and is now attempting his hockey comeback at the Atlantic University Sport level with the Huskies.
Danton, who has faced criticism in some circles for the move, spoke with great composure and didn’t stray far from script, saying he is here to put his past behind him.
“I think we’ve all made mistakes,” Danton said. “The severity of those mistakes is what differs, but when it comes down to it, I think everybody deserves a second chance. Where would we be if we weren’t given second chances?”
Asked if he was too old to play university hockey, Danton said, “Is 29 really that old? Cut me some slack.”
No one knows when Danton will play for the Huskies. He only practised for the first time Wednesday, and, according to head coach Trevor Stienburg, “doesn’t deserve to get in the lineup” yet. Cardio fitness is his biggest issue.
But calling himself “a student-athlete, not an athlete-student,” Danton said he’s here to get a sociology degree and work toward a job in sports psychology or coaching.
He still aspires to play pro hockey, but considers Saint Mary’s a long-term stop in his rehabilitation.
“I’ve already got three strikes,” Danton said. “If I screw this up, there’s absolutely nothing else for me.”