Mike Danton's attempt to continue his hockey career in England is on hold after border officials refused to grant him an entry visa.
The former National Hockey League forward, who served more than five years in a U.S. prison for a failed murder-for-hire plot, had his visa application rejected last week, the Coventry Blaze announced Monday. The team, which plays in the Elite Ice Hockey League, said Danton plans to submit a secondary application to the UK Border Agency.
The Blaze called on officials to view that "sympathetically" because of the positive steps taken by Danton since his release from prison in 2009.
"Mike would be a huge asset both on and off the ice," the team said on its website. "He is an outstanding example of an individual who has turned his life around in recent years. … There are so many positive reasons why we believe Mike deserves to be granted his visa."
Danton and team officials won't make any further comment until a decision is made on the secondary application, according to the Blaze.
The 31-year-old Danton returned to pro hockey last season — splitting his time between teams in Sweden and the Czech Republic — following two years at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, where he helped the Huskies win a national championship in 2010 and was named an academic all-Canadian because of a straight-A average.
He continues to pursue a double major in psychology and criminology at the university.
Blaze back former NHLer
Danton had originally been scheduled to travel to England this week. Coventry opens its season at Cardiff, Wales, on Aug. 29 but made it clear that it will remain committed to Danton even if the immigration problems force him to miss the first few weeks of the schedule.
Among the reasons the Blaze listed that Danton should be granted a visa is the fact he has started his own family. His baby son was born earlier this month.
"At 7:31pm, I experienced the best accomplishment of my life. Better than an NHL game, goal, or a good fight … I became a father," Danton wrote Aug. 13 on Twitter.
Even though his criminal record currently prevents him from travelling to the U.S., Danton hasn't completely abandoned his dream of making a return to the NHL. After signing with Coventry earlier this summer, Danton wrote in a blog entry that he hadn't "been this excited for a hockey season since my year in St. Louis."
The native of Brampton, Ont., was a fifth-round pick by New Jersey in 2000 and appeared in 87 career NHL games for the Devils and Blues. He was arrested following a 2004 playoff game in San Jose, Calif., while playing for St. Louis.
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.