To many in the hockey world, former St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton will be remembered solely for his surreal plan to hire someone to murder his former agent David Frost. Danton eventually spent five years in prison for charges related to that plot and finished his parole sentence in early 2011.
After spending some time getting his hockey career and life back together at St. Mary’s in Halifax, Danton announced that his journey would continue in a Swedish league. He eventually settled in with Swedish Division 1 team IFK Ore, where he became fast friends with players such as Marcus Bengtsson – a player he calls “Vanilla Gorilla.”
In a strange twist, Danton’s time in prison came in handy during a scary on-ice incident that made him an unlikely hero. Danton apparently became certified in a first aid course during his prison time, which gave him the proper knowledge to help Bengtsson survive a lengthy bout of convulsions after he received a late hit during a game.
Here’s an excerpt of Danton’s blog account of the incident, beginning with Danton realizing that his teammate was in a bad condition after taking that late hit. (Note: the full link includes some adult language.)
As I skated over, I caught the last part of Bangan’s face smashing into the ice. It was like a mallet pounding into meat. After a few choice words with the perpetrator, I heard a moan. As I bent down to see if Bangan was okay, that is when he started to convulse.
At first it was his legs, then his arms, then his eyes, then his entire body.
His convulsions went on for what seemed like forever. Emergency help did take forever, as we are 35 minutes from the closest ambulance. There was nothing that we could do but wait and hope for the best. Our crew did a great job though. What must have been 6 or 7 minutes of convulsing all of a sudden stopped. His eyes opened and looked all around. Amongst the people talking Swedish to him I asked him if he was okay. ”Yes,” he replied. I asked him if he was sore or felt pain. ”No,” he said. I asked him if he knew where he was. ”Yes,” he stated. Weird, I thought. Then, I said, ”Manchester United sucks.” And he laughed. The Vanilla Gorilla was back. And it was at that time that I began to cry. I realized how close I was to losing a teammate, a line mate, a friend, and a member of the indigenous population of gorillas.
(Again, you can check out Danton’s full fascinating account of the harrowing but uplifting incident here.)
It’s certainly an unlikely story, but hopefully it’s just part of a redemptive process for the (once?) troubled winger. An NHL comeback is extremely unlikely, but if this story is any indication, Danton could still make a positive impact on the sport – one strangely nicknamed teammate at a time.
(H/T to Sean Leahy.)
The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.
The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.
“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”
McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.
But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.
That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.
“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”
Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.
Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”