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Usual Suspects

Will Danton follow Theo's lead? Add to ...

Upon hearing that Mike Danton was going to unburden himself to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet (tonight at 8 P.M. ET on Sportsnet East, 9 P.M. local time on Sportsnet Ontario, West and Pacific), Usual Suspects wondered if the former NHLer - now paroled after five and a half years in a U.S. prison - had spoken to Theo Fleury since his release. The parallels: two former hockey stars with media narratives that didn't pass the credibility gap. Fleury resolved his issues this fall, finally admitting to being abused by sexual predator Graham James - something long suspected in the hockey culture. The relief in unburdening himself was palpable for Fleury and his fans.

Danton, of course, has been nursing a story line about being wrongfully incarcerated for trying to have his agent/mentor David Frost killed. In this parable, his parents ruined him, Frost saved him, and the world doesn't understand. Thanks to some diligent reporting by, in particular, Bob McKeown and CBC's Fifth Estate, few outside the tight Frost network buy any of this.

So our question to Kypreos about the interview (taped October 27) is will Mike Danton (born Mike Jefferson) cling to his story or, like Fleury, clear the record?

"Let's talk after the show," Kypreos told Usual Suspects on Monday.

Has Danton been misrepresented?

"Let's let the public decide after it airs," replied Kypreos.

Does he deserve a second chance, was he misrepresented in the previous media stories?

"We'll have to wait till after the show."

In TV they call that a teaser. By Tuesday, Sportsnet was a little more forthcoming, releasing clips from the interview that show Danton discussing Frost - but not distancing himself from the former agent/coach.

"Well it's not sexual, I can tell you that," Danton tells Kypreos about the relationship. "I think people need to really understand it wasn't a player/agent relationship. I think that's where a lot of the views were kind of distorted, and the media kind of took off with how bizarre this is, an agent being able to have that type of control or influence on a young man. It wasn't a player/agent relationship."

Danton, who describes himself in the interview as a "ticking time bomb (at the time of the crime)", also talks about contemplating suicide in prison.

"It was a down time and there were a couple occasions where I, and I've only talked about this a couple times, where I actually shredded the towels and made a little noose. . . I just wasn't happy with myself. I wasn't happy with life in general. I was sick and tired of being alone."

Kypreos explained Monday that Danton did not approach Sportsnet; the network itself sought out the former St. Louis Blues forward.

"No one's ever told his side of the story. Everyone's been trying to get him since his release. Sportsnet said to me, 'Can you get to him?' That's what I did."

Did David Frost arrange the interview?

"We talked to David about background stuff, but we talked to other people, too."

Did Kypreos think he'd be candid?

"We went in thinking it would be a four-minute segment on [Sportsnet]Connected. But he gave us so much. We were amazed by how open he was on his relationship with David. And we were shocked by the detail... That's when we decided to go to a full hour. There was so much."

With Kypreos unwilling to judge his subject, we still only have snippets to indicate whether Danton is going to go Fleury-honest tonight. From the provided clips, however, it seems Danton is not ready to go there yet. Which is his choice, of course. But it also postpones the inevitable date with reality. Just ask Theo.

XM, NHL Visit Gretzky's

What's with radio on TV these days? Since Howard Stern introduced the concept, TV broadcasters have been exploiting a popular radio show as an inexpensive programming option. The latest to use the format is the NHL Network. Starting Monday, the XM Canada afternoon show NHL Power Play with Scott Laughlin goes live across North America on the NHL Network.

"I had reservations when I first saw shows like Bob McCown's (Prime Time Sports) on TV," Laughlin says. "But now I like it. The challenge is to make it more visual. I'd like to try using a little B-roll and chyron to give it a fresh visual look. Bob can get away with being the anti-TV figure, but we have to offer a little more."

The radio show, which originates from a new studio at Wayne Gretzky's, was not planned as a TV simulcast, but when the NHL Network learned of the remote location in Gretzky's, they jumped at the chance to televise from there.

"I think they wanted to get a little different look from the studio," says Laughlin, who moved to afternoons at XM this summer. "Hopefully we can do that with the setting and the guests. The NHL has told us they're behind the show a hundred per cent."

While Canada is over-served with hockey coverage, the same isn't true in the U.S.

"I wish I had a dollar for everyone who contacts me from Alabama or Florida or Georgia to say what a godsend we are to hockey fans who can't get any coverage," says Laughlin, who'll work with a rotating set of co-hosts for the time being. "I'm very anxious to see how much TV will bring people to our show."

So is the NHL.

Burden Of Proof: It all used to be so easy for NHL disciplinarians in the days before TV and a thousand different camera angles. Without video recording Rocket Richard's famous outburst that led to his notorious season-ending suspension in 1955, second guessers had no ammunition to question the Solomonic wisdom of NHL president Clarence Campbell's decision. Now? Every incident is fraught with Zapruder-like evidence to spark dissent.

In this week's episode of CSI: NHL, the current veep of discipline Colin Campbell suspends Calgary's Curtis Glencross for three games after his blindside head shot on Chris Drury of the Rangers. Fair enough. But how is Glencross's cheap shot worse than similar attacks by Mike Richards on David Booth or Alex Ovechkin on Jamie Heward that went unpunished? (Surely not a separate rule for superstars? Or players on New York teams?) As the GMs sit down today in Toronto to discuss such matters, the NHL is either mute or incoherent on the nuance between the hits. Unfortunately the available video speaks volumes.

Riders On The Storm

As usual the CFL had its issues in 2009. Labour strife, the competitive void in Toronto, Mike Kelly's charm offensive. But you wouldn't notice by ratings released this week by TSN. According to the sports network, audiences were up 51 per cent from last year. (Average audience this year was 600,00.) Part of the reason lies in the hidden numbers now being discovered by the introduction of personal people metres (PPMs).

Plus, like northern pike, Saskatchewan fans also keep coming back each summer. Witness the top five audiences this year according to TSN: BC @ Saskatchewan on Oct. 24 - 1.2 million; Edmonton @ Saskatchewan on Sept. 20 - 1.1 million; Edmonton @ Calgary on Sept. 7 (Labour Day Classic) - 1.09 million; Calgary @ Saskatchewan on Nov. 7 (final weekend) - 1.08 million; Saskatchewan @ BC on Oct. 2 - 1.04-million. Sometimes it's easier being green.

Signs Of The Apocalypse Pt. 341

The televised wedding of LA Laker Lamar Odom to one of the Kardashian party girls (who can tell them apart?) drew 3.2-million viewers on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The best rating for a Lakers' game so far this season is 3.4-million. Cue the Four Horsemen.


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