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New Crushers coach seeks speed, "aura of team toughness"

Pictou County Crushers
Pictou County Crushers - Contributed

WESTVILLE ROAD, N.S. – 

Mike Danton doesn’t ignore the elephant in the room, he just doesn’t want it to define his entire life. And while he doesn’t come right out and say it, he prefers to not be constantly reminded of how his life turned when he was in his early 20s.

That’s just human nature.

In an interview with The News, the newly-hired Pictou County Junior A Crushers coach touched on a few topics related to his new coaching job, one of them being his well-documented past legal issues.

“Don’t make any rash judgements from what happened when I was 23 years old,” says Danton, now 38, married and with three young children.

In the mid-2000s, while a member of the St. Louis Blues, Danton wrecked his NHL career and spent five years in a U.S. prison after conspiring to murder his former agent. When his finished his jail time, he enrolled at Saint Mary’s University and helped the Huskies win a CIS hockey championship in 2010.

"He's been unreal," former SMU coach Trevor Stienburg said of Danton nine years ago. ‘The city, the school, and the team's embraced him. Maritimers love him, man."

Later on, Danton was a player/coach in Europe.

“Just because I have a past doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy,” he says now.

“People make mistakes, don’t judge me on something that happened to me 15 years ago. What I’m hoping is, players will look at me and say ‘(he) played in The Show but he’s also made some mistakes in his life at that level, the level where I want to be.’ And hopefully they learn from it.”

Mike Danton.
Mike Danton.

Danton is a long way from determining items such as who might be his No. 1 centre, who might drive the power play, and which players best fit certain situations.

“There’s six or seven guys who can play wing or centre (and) even our top six, right now, is in question. I don’t care who played where last year, I don’t care if a guy played on the fourth line – training camp is a fresh start for everybody.”

He’s walking into what is, potentially, a very good situation, with a team that went through some growing pains last year, and still put up a furious fight, before coming up just short of a playoff spot in the final days of the regular season.

“For me to say I’m not excited, I’d be lying. There’s a tremendous amount of skill with some of the players on the team. It’s definitely a veteran-laden team, which should equate to a plethora of experience.”

The new coach will stress the need for speed, aggression and playing with an attitude.

“We’ll be in good shape, physically. The teams that can play in the third period are usually the ones that are successful,” he says.

“And there’s going to be an aura of team toughness – no one’s going to come to the Pictou County Wellness Centre and push us around.”

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