Mike Danton’s professional hockey career is resuming a long way from the NHL.
The 30-year-old forward is joining Swedish team IFK Ore, which plays in the third tier of the country’s pro system. General manager Jens Nielsen confirmed the Danton signing to The Canadian Press on Friday, but declined further comment.
Danton spent the past two seasons with the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Canadian university hockey after serving five years in a U.S. prison for a failed murder-for-hire plot.
The former NHLer tweeted about his move on Thursday night: “Just signed my first pro contract in eight years. I’m off to Sweden for the 2011-2012 season. Thanks to everyone for their support.”
IFK Ore is based in the small village of Furudal, which is a little over 300 kilometres north of Stockholm. The team plays out of the 32-year-old Furudals Hockeycenter, which has a capacity of 796. It averaged 169 fans per game last season.
Players in Sweden’s Division 1—which is below the Elitserien and Hockeyallsvenskan—earn modest wages and sometimes hold other jobs. The top player on each team is typically paid around 20,000 Swedish Kronar (C$3,050) per month.
Terms of Danton’s contract were unavailable. However, Nielsen told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that it was a “great deal” for the team and expressed hope that Danton will be a role model for the younger players.
He’s not concerned about the player’s past.
“Of course we have discussed his past, but you can’t judge someone for life,” Nielsen told Svenska Dagbladet. “What’s done is done, and now he seems eager to get away from North America and find the calm here.”
Danton’s time at Saint Mary’s was a success. He enrolled in psychology at the Halifax university a few months after getting released from prison and was named an academic all-Canadian because of a straight-A average.
Even though he didn’t dominate on the ice—Danton had three goals and five points in 28 regular-season games last season—he helped the school win its first CIS hockey championship in 2010.
All along, the allure of pro hockey remained. After Danton’s parole ended in January, he was essentially free to pursue a playing career again with restrictions lifted on his ability to travel.
“I think anybody at this level would want to play at the highest level possible for them—for me, that would be the NHL,” Danton told The Canadian Press then. “I’d like to get back to playing there. To be honest with you, yeah, it’s in my mind.
“It’s something I’d like to do.”
Danton was a fifth-round pick by New Jersey in 2000 and played 87 career NHL games for the Devils and St. Louis. He was arrested while a member of the Blues in 2004 following a playoff game in San Jose, Calif.
U.S. prosecutors said Danton’s intended target in the murder-for-hire plot was David Frost, a controversial figure who was his agent at the time. However, Danton suggested to the National Parole Board in 2009 that the target was his father, with whom he has been estranged.
The target wasn’t identified in the agreed-to facts that were part of the court record when Danton pleaded guilty.