When former NHL player agent and hockey coach David Frost goes to trial next week in Napanee, Ont., on sexual exploitation charges, there will be many interested parties curious to see what ensues. That group includes CBC journalist Bob McKeown, whose latest investigative documentary on Frost, Inside Room 22, airs Wednesday on CBC television at 9 p.m. EST.
“The David Frost story has become more of a recurring feature of my career than I expected,” said McKeown, an Emmy-winning reporter and former Canadian Football League star who has followed the twisting, turning case of Frost and his former client Mike Danton for years. “It’s not necessarily David Frost who intrigues me, but the story just keeps getting more and more bizarre.
“I’ve done a lot of (stories) that, in context have made a splash, but this one, in Canada over the past three or four years, has really just captivated people, for a number of reasons. I think one is, it’s a story about hockey that’s not a hockey story.
“It’s a story about people – in particular, David Frost, and the kids he coached, mentored, and (served as an agent for) for the better part of their lives. I’m a hockey parent, and this story is a real lesson as to the terrible possibilities when you entrust your kid to others.”
As noted in the CBC documentary, Frost – by then, an accredited NHL player agent – was targeted by Danton, his main client and a member of the St. Louis Blues at the time, in a murder-for-hire plot uncovered by the FBI in 2004.
Danton, formerly known as Mike Jefferson, had been estranged from his family for a number of years as a teenager under Frost’s tutelage, but his relationship with Frost began to unravel once he was in the NHL and he offered a strip-club bouncer $10,000 to kill Frost. When the bouncer rebuffed Danton, the winger went to a female fan and a friend of hers, who worked in law enforcement and alerted authorities to the plot. Danton pleaded guilty to the murder plot charges and is currently serving a 7-and-a-half-year sentence in a U.S. federal prison.
Frost’s current charges relate to events that allegedly took place in Deseronto, Ont., when he coached Danton and former NHLer Sheldon Keefe on the Jr. A Quinte Hawks.
McKeown’s report (which can be seen in its entirety online at CBC.ca/fifth after the program airs) focuses on the infamous motel room Frost shared with three of his players during his time as Quinte’s coach, and the alleged sexual improprieties witnesses say took place while Frost was present.
Testimonials from those who watched Frost interact with his players – including Hawks trainer Chuck Morgan, who called Frost “an abrasive man…an angry man” – paint the coach as a control freak who built a boorish cult of personality around himself, one his players were pressured to follow at all costs.
“There are people who would say the cult of personality was certainly part of it,” McKeown said. “(Frost) gathered these kids from a very young age – as young as 10, in the case of then-Mike Jefferson – and very shortly, they became estranged from their families. They spent a lot of time with David Frost in hockey season and out of hockey season. And when they went to Deseronto, he was their parental role model. He lived in that room; Sheldon Keefe, who was 15 years old at the time, lived in that room.
“We actually found a letter – and it’s not (included) in (the latest documentary) – but we found a letter in which (Frost) laid out what it was that made them in that group, Frost and his boys, different from everyone else: the code of conduct they had, the brotherhood they had.
“And it was just a very odd letter when you saw the tone of it. At one point (in the letter) (Frost) says words to the effect of, ‘I always thought that when you got married, you would come to me with your girlfriend for (my) approval. But I realize now that’s not going to happen.’ And in saying those things, you thought. ‘Whoa! This relationship with these guys has gone way beyond that of a coach, or an agent.’ ”
McKeown will be watching Frost’s trial closely – and not just to see whether he is acquitted or convicted of the charges.
“I don’t want to say hockey is on trial next week in Napanee, but to a degree it is,” McKeown said. “Because David Frost represents a system for hockey, our national sport, that isn’t based in educational institutions, the way football and basketball are in the U.S., for example. For all the problems the NCAA has – and they are plentiful – at least there’s institutional responsibilities there.
“Clearly, the David Frost case has placed everyone on notice, and I would hope especially parents. Because the story of Mike Danton is one where his parents basically turned him over from the age of 10 to David Frost, for better or worse, because Frost promised to get him to the NHL. And I think they’d be very frank now that their view of this was definitely tinted by what they thought was going to be the end of the rainbow for their son.
“Does that still happen? Of course it does. But I would hope that parents, knowing this story, would realize how vigilant they have to be in finding a place for their kid that is safe and secure, as well as being a good hockey opportunity.”
For more on McKeown and the Frost case, pick up the Oct. 28 edition of The Hockey News magazine.