One of the detectives worked undercover, sniffing out drugs and gangs on the streets of Ottawa. Another forged his career solving biker hits and prison murders.
Together they led a team of Ontario Provincial Police officers that laid sexual exploitation charges against former junior hockey coach and National Hockey League agent David Frost this week, after infiltrating a different, but equally tight network: the locker room.
When a young woman came to police in April, 2004, alleging she and three male hockey players had been sexually exploited by Mr. Frost when they were 16, the file immediately went up the chain to Detective Inspector Ian Grant, one of the highest-ranking investigators in the force's Criminal Investigation Bureau.
Det. Insp. Grant assembled the team whose work made headlines when Mr. Frost was charged with 12 counts of sexual exploitation and one of assault.
Mr. Frost was released on bail yesterday, marking the end of a lengthy investigation that has attempted to penetrate Mr. Frost's notoriously close ring of young hockey players.
As the case gradually plays out in the courtroom of the small town of Napanee, Ont., the verdict may hinge on how deeply those detectives were able to dig.
Meanwhile, numerous interviews with sources close to the investigation offer a glimpse into their work.
The group of teenage players who surrounded Mr. Frost when he was coach of the Junior A Quinte Hawks in the late 1990s, including future NHL forward Mike Danton, developed a reputation in rinks across Ontario for being an insular clique. Some of their teammates took to calling them "the cult."
To get inside that group, the detectives executed numerous search warrants, and even revisited the scene that police believe was the starting point for the alleged abuse. Over the span of a few days at the start of the investigation, detectives swept for evidence in Room 22 of the Bay View Inn in Deseronto, Ont., the motel suite where Mr. Frost lived when he coached the Hawks in 1996-97.
The bulk of the investigation has been made up of police interviews -- many, many police interviews.
Nearly every person who has worn a Quinte Hawks jersey has been paid a visit by the detectives, and because many of the Hawks were moderately-to-highly talented, they went on to professional hockey careers that have taken them all over the world. The detectives found them.
Colin Scotland, a former Hawk from Cole Harbour, N.S., was interviewed by the detectives in a Nova Scotia RCMP detachment. The detectives also spoke with Morgan Warren, another Hawk forward, on one of his visits home from his professional team in Germany. Detectives flew to Switzerland to interview Bill Stewart, who coached some of the players Mr. Frost represented as an agent when they were in the Ontario Hockey League.
Armed with an audio recorder and a long list of queries about the motel, parties, booze, girls and Mr. Frost's whereabouts during all of those alleged wild nights 10 years ago, the detectives have asked the players to spill it all.
Many of the interviews were cordial. Others didn't go so smoothly.
"My lawyer sent him packing three-quarters of the way through it," said Ian Larocque, a former Hawk who was visited by the detectives in Texas, where he played professionally for the minor-league Austin Ice Bats until 2002. "[The detective]gets up and turns his tape off and says, 'I'm out of here.' "
Timing was also critical, police sources said. Investigators said they knew that, because the hockey community was so closely connected, word would get out quickly. So their most significant interviews, the ones with players who had the most intimate knowledge of what took place in Room 22, were completed first.
The courtroom will likely hear whether the detectives were able to reach out to Mr. Frost's closest allies, such as former NHL forward Sheldon Keefe or Mr. Danton, who pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to trying to have Mr. Frost killed in 2004. He has never publicly explained why.
Yesterday, Mr. Danton's father said he was relieved Mr. Frost has been charged with sexually exploiting young people.
"Still, my son's in jail, and I believe he is the biggest victim of the whole thing," Stephen Jefferson, whose estranged son changed his name from Jefferson to Danton, said at a news conference in Mississauga in reference to his son's well-known history with Mr. Frost
Some of the other players interviewed by police have made their feelings toward Mr. Frost very public.
"I hope you rot," Jesse Wansborough yelled yesterday as Mr. Frost, wearing a blue T-shirt, khaki shorts and a set of handcuffs, was escorted by police to the courtroom.
Mr. Wansborough, 28, met Mr. Frost only once in 1996, shortly after he was brought in to coach the Hawks. One of the coach's first moves was to cut Mr. Wansborough and a handful of other local teens from the team.
Mr. Wansborough, who was also interviewed for the police investigation, called his release from the Hawks a "blessing in disguise."
"The whole situation stinks to me," he said.
As for what Mr. Frost thinks of the elaborate police investigation, he was brief.
"Innocent. Innocent," he said, as he guided himself through a swarm of television cameras and photographers to his lawyer's car.
Mr. Frost is scheduled to appear in court in Napanee on Sept. 19. While out on bail, he is required to meet with the lead OPP investigator once a week and is forbidden from contacting a number of people.
With a report from James Rusk