Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Former NHL agent David Frost -- Eventually Bad Things Happen to Bad People

One of the most notorious agents in history of professional sports, former National Hockey League agent David Frost, is finally in jail today, charged with 12 counts of sexual exploitation and 1 count of assault. Frost will appear in court today in Napanee, Ontario. Frost isn’t a household name. His claim to fame relates to former NHL player Mike Danton’s alleged murder for hire plot, a plot where Danton wanted to have Frost, his agent, killed. Danton remains behind bars in a U.S. federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J., in the midst of a seven-year sentence for the alleged incident that took place in April 2004.

The charges Frost is facing are a direct result of his association with Danton and former NHL player Sheldon Keefe. Keefe and Danton played for the Quinte Hawks during the 1996-97 season. Frost wrecked havoc during a short but bizarre coaching career with the Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League (now known as the Greater Toronto Hockey League) over a four-season span.

Following the 1993-94 season, the OHA was set to suspend the entire Brampton Jr. a team, coached by Frost, for undisciplined play. The league ended up putting Brampton on probation, only because the team said Frost would not return as coach.

During the 1995-96 season, Frost was suspended indefinitely by the Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League "for being party to the falsification of documents," according to a league document. He was coaching the Toronto Red Wings at the time and allegedly the signature of General Manager Terry Weir was forged on player-release forms. The league found Frost guilty by association.

In April 1997, less than seven months after the MTHL suspension, Frost was charged with assaulting one of his players, Darryl Tiveron, while serving as an assistant coach with the Quinte Hawks of the Metro Junior Hockey League (Tier II junior hockey). Tiveron later denied the assault took place, but two off-duty police officers say they witnessed the incident and Frost pleaded guilty to assault charges that summer.

Frost arrived in Quinte with Danton, Keefe, Ryan Barnes and Shawn Cation at the start of the 1996-97 season as they were looking for a place to play hockey. The five lived in a motel in the Quinte area. Shortly after their arrival Frost assumed control of the Hawks. Quinte is a small community in Eastern Ontario. Like many Canadian communities the town lived for the Hawks’ games. Frost and his four musketeers delivered both winning and violent hockey to Quinte, an enticing elixir for a town that had never experienced a hockey team capable of winning.

The players, known as the Quinte Four, made the move to the Ontario Hockey League (the highest level for junior hockey in Canada) in 1997-98 playing for the St. Michael’s Majors. They where traded as a group to the Barrie Colts in 1999.

Frost was first introduced to Danton and Keefe (the two former NHL players) when the boys were 10 years old. Before Danton’s and Keefe’s families knew what had happened the boys changed overnight. Distancing themselves from their families, Frost allegedly created a culture of fear, a lack of trust, where the youngsters believed David Frost had the key to their universe – a career in the NHL. Frost began garnering a great deal of media attention, with the alleged bizarre behavior of the Quinte Four.

"I've heard the brainwash stuff, that I brainwash players," Frost told the Toronto Sun in 1999. "Maybe I have brainwashed them. You know how crazy that is? If I was that smart, I would brainwash 20 of them and we would go win the Stanley Cup. Brainwashing? When I hear that cult stuff, it makes me crazy."

Keefe was selected in the second round of the 1999 NHL draft, 47th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightening. Danton was selected 135th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Both players by now had left their families behind, (Danton’s birth name is Jefferson), falling under the spell of David Frost.

If you’re interested in becoming an NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB agent you have to be certified by each league’s respective player’s association. Most agents have a legal background. Many are former players. The National Hockey League Players Association doesn’t have a certification process for agents, just sign up at your local rink and you can have tremendous influence in the destiny of young gifted hockey players.

When it comes to trying to understand how someone without any of the needed professional skills became an NHL agent, Frost coached former NHLPA executive director’s Bob Goodenow’s son. Goodenow served as one of Frost’s assistant coaches. The lack of a screening process came back to haunt the NHLPA in the days after Danton’s failed murder-for-hire plot. Many were trying to figure out how and why an NHL player would try and pay anyone $10,000 to have his agent murdered.

"I know fingers have been pointed at [Goodenow]," a source told The Globe and Mail in 2004. "But if you screened people based on morality there would be very few owners, players and even reporters in their jobs. And look how many [NHL] owners have been in jail."

"I think the certification process is well-structured, and I think its nature allows for an accounting [of agents] every year," said Don Meehan, a partner with Pat Morris in Newport Sports Management, which has more than 100 NHL players as clients. "All-in-all, I think it's a good system."

A source with ties to the union said, "Whoever certified Frost knows they made a mistake, but [the process] is not about morality. You can't deny someone the right to make a living. Besides, any agent who mismanages a client won't get any more clients and will soon be out of business anyway."

One of the biggest problems with hockey agents, they often begin representing youngsters as early as age 12 or 13. Major junior hockey, the stepping stone to the National Hockey League, is considered a semi-professional league. While the players are paid a little over $100 a week, virtually all major junior hockey players (aged 17 to 19) have agents. Imagine LeBron James having an agent as a high school basketball player – that’s the culture that exists in hockey, a belief system that produced David Frost.

"These guys usually lose a client because he's unsatisfied," former NHL player Mike Gillis, now an NHL agent told The Globe and Mail. "There are players that get hooked up with an agent when they're 12 or 13 years old. Perhaps they're not capable of choosing a good one at that age."

The charges that Frost is facing date back to the days of infamy for the Quinte Four, while they where in Quinte. The boys and Frost lived in a motel – being the biggest news to arrive in town in many years according to various media reports, the boys and Frost partied with the locals long into the night, each and every night. The Canadian Broadcast Company featured the antics of Frost and his boys on several episodes of the network’s award winning show, “The Fifth Estate”. The newsmagazine show (styled along the lines of 60 Minutes) produced “Frost Bite” in the months following Danton’s murder-for-hire plot.

Bob McKeown painted a deeply disturbing picture of Frost and his relationship with Danton and Keefe. One of the issues McKeown raised during his first report (there were two subsequent follow-up segments) included an alleged incident that took place during the summer of 2000 when Danton’s 13-year old brother Tom visited his older brother, Frost and other older hockey players associated with Frost at a cottage near Kingston, Ontario.

Steve and Sue Jefferson obtained photos of their youngest son Tom from his experience at the cottage. They brought the photos to the attention of Dr. Brian Shaw, psychologist for the NHLPA. He in turn brought the photographs to the attention of the Children's Aid Society and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Photos show Frost pointing a rifle at their then thirteen year-old son. Another photo shows young Tom duct-taped naked to the back of a bunk bed.

The photographs sparked a police investigation into allegations of abuse. Frost and five witnesses say the "initiation" was the boy's idea. They also say the boy's version of events is completely false.

The investigation is dropped, but Tom Jefferson sticks to his story.

Keefe purchased the Pembroke Lumber Kings, a Tier II junior franchise last summer. Keefe and Frost were adamant that while Keefe owned the Lumber Kings, Frost had no direct association with the team. McKeown and The Fifth Estate visited Frost at a Lumber Kings home game in November. Frost refused to address McKeown, instead offering a profanity laced triad at the television camera.

Which brings the story to the heinous charges David Frost is facing today and finally at long last an opportunity for justice. The Ontario Provincial Police faced a great deal of criticism as to why they hadn’t dealt with what reportedly Frost may have done during his days in Quinte and in the years that followed.

Frost was arrested outside a Kingston bar at 2:30 PM Tuesday. According to a Canadian Press report the charges follow a two-year investigation by the Criminal Investigations Branch of the Ontario Provincial Police.

“There is currently a publication ban in place to protect the identity of the victims,” said police spokeswoman Sgt. Kristine Rae.

Rae refused to say whether the alleged incidents took place during Frost’s time behind the bench of the Tier II Deseronto Quinte Hawks junior hockey team.

”At this point in time, we are not releasing any further details regarding this situation.”

A terrible price has already been paid by those tainted by David Frost. Mike Danton remains in a New Jersey jail. The NHL wants nothing to do with Keefe. Two NHL careers that might have once been considered promising are in ruins. The crimes Frost is charged with bring into question the terrible impact Frost and the young men he had once be entrusted to lead toll they may have had on minors.

David Frost serves as a testament as to what’s wrong with those who are ill equipped to be coaching youngsters. By all appearances David Frost’s was a self serving, ego maniacal borderline psychopath. How and why an individual of Frost’s ilk ever become an NHL agent is an embarrassment to the National Hockey League Players Association. The legal system will deal with Frost and his actions in due course. At the same time, someone should be held accountable within the NHLPA for allowing David Frost to be certified as an NHL player agent.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Globe and Mail, CBC’s The Fifth Estate and The Canadian Press