Last May, it was announced to some fan fare that a movie about the controversial Danbury Trashers hockey team was going into production.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock you certainly should know why this hockey team deserves a movie.
Controversy creates cash, and the Danbury Trashers were an expansion team for the UHL in 2004. James (Jimmy) Galante purchased the team and named them the Trashers after his garbage company. His 17-year-old son A.J became the teams GM, A.J is now involved in boxing and is doing incredibly well, make sure to check out what he has done since if you get the chance.
James Galante put a lot of money into the city of Danbury, he made donations to the hospital, helped out those in need, and once paid for a veteran soldier’s funeral. All in all, seemed like a pretty good guy.
The Trashers took to the ice with a roster that was tough as nails and a fan base that matched (shoutout to those in section 102). They saw their fair share of goal scorers too, as Brent Gretzky and Mike Rupp wore the Trashers uniform proudly during an NHL lockout.
Several insane moments on-ice would follow as fights became expected more than goals, and rivalries intensified in what was already a knock ’em down hockey league. Danbury just turned it into an art form.
In a game against Kalamazoo, quite the battle was going on, missed calls aplenty, and a Trashers player sustained a broken ankle in a skirmish.
This was enough for James Galante to leave the owners box, attempt to get onto the ice via the penalty box, before getting into a shouting match with an official. He eventually laid hands on the official in question and was fined heavily by the league and suspended to boot.
The assault charges were eventually dropped and Galante didn’t face any further punishment for the incident. Nor did they start a Go Fund Me campaign to help him pay his fine.
All good things do come to an end. The team was playing well, they had great rosters year in year out. But something seemed off.
The Trashers were placed under investigation for circumventing the leagues salary cap, committing wire fraud and a variety of other serious charges. The investigations revealed that James Galante was an associate of the Genovese Crime Family. This seemed to be no secret to the public, they just accepted that he was into some shady business but otherwise was good for the community.
In the end, James Galante spent some time behind bars, the Trashers folded and the story was done. The Mob had successfully let a teenager be the GM of a professional hockey team and just like the mob, they certainly weren’t a team to mess with from top to bottom.
Now I assure you the franchise history is far more colorful than that. I highly recommend looking up the story, its incredible and worthy of a movie.
But, did you know that the NHL had a mobster in their ranks too?
Big Bill Dwyer, an Irish-American bootlegger of the 1920’s ran a booze kingdom of sorts, coincidentally, he also ran the Brooklyn Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Born in 1883, Hells Kitchen NY, Bill Dwyer grew up in a hardened neighborhood, he became a shipyard worker for George Shevlin.
It didn’t take much for Bill to put two and two together, unlimited access to trucks, garages, ships, other wayward men, it was all laid out for him and he took it by the reigns.
Running booze from overseas right to Manhattan’s unguarded doorstep, Dwyer had an empire. Rubbing shoulders with some of the scariest men in history like Frank Costello and the terrifying Owney Madden. Bill was a force to be reckoned with, so much so that he had protection from various law offices across New York.
In 1925 when the Hamilton Tigers came up for sale, Bill Dwyer purchased them and moved them to New York, and the New York Americans were born.
Dwyer, like Galante would do later on, would offer huge contracts to his players, he had a healthy bank account, money wasn’t really a thing to him. It was just always there.
Now the Amerks weren’t that successful on ice in the early days and Dwyer tried hard to change those fortunes, he did anything he could, including rigging games and hiring crooked goal judges. He had a large paying audience at the Gardens, they paid to see a winner.
Well, one of his crooked goal judges took his antics a bit too far one night. The unnamed judge mercilessly taunted Ottawa Senators goalie Alec Connell through the wires behind the goal. Eventually, the taunts became too much for Connel to tolerate so to put an end to it all, he butt ended the goal judge in the nose, breaking it immediately.
Bill Dwyer’s cronies were upset, they sought out to end Alec Connell’s life that night. Hearing that he was in grave danger he was given a police escort to get him safely away from MSG. When he arrived at the train station he was asked by a man if he was Alec Connell, if he had answered yes, his life’s story would of ended there. However he said no and the man moved along.
Dwyer would also purchase the Pittsburgh Pirates hockey team using a boxer friend as a front to do so. The Pirates would suffer their worst season yet. The stock crash happened along with the great depression and suddenly both of his franchises were now suffering financially.
Having been subject to repeated investigations by the US Government, he was finally caught in a lawsuit with them and lost a significant amount of money. He went from a King to Pauper almost overnight.
Penniless, he desperately tried to stay afloat with the Amerks, his only team left standing as the Pirates moved to Philly becoming the Philadelphia Quakers, but the NHL soon took control of the NY Americans by force, prohibition had ended and Bill had trouble paying the bills. He filed a number of lawsuits against the NHL, losing them all.
A fun side-bar fact for you in all this: the New York Americans and Boston Bruins were the initial reason why the NHL considered icing rules, the first time they met, the Amerks dumped the puck 61 times! The next time the Bruins did it 87 times. Could you imagine? Paying for a game where all they did was ice the puck and not a single goal was scored? Insane.
The NHL controlled Americans wouldn’t last much longer, WWII broke out, the franchise suspended its operations and never financially recovered. They were dormant until being declared dead in 1946.
Big Bill Dwyer would pass away in 1963, powerless and without a dime to his name. From king bootlegger and financier to a common man, a harsh fall from the top indeed.
Another strange story is how the Chicago Cheetahs of Roller Hockey International were financially backed by some Chicago underworld characters. (Even the mob bought into Roller Hockey…strange, right?)
In more modern times, it’s been suggested that a few past and present NHL stars have connections to the underground, Alexander Daigle and Jose Theodore come to mind, even Evgeni Malkin has been mentioned before.
The province of Quebec has a long standing mafia history, so does the city of Hamilton, Ontario. Could it be that there are some backroom deals being done? It certainly seems possible.
It was long speculated that the Hamilton Ti-Cats of the CFL were owned by the mafia. Same with quiet barstool conversations about some of the original LNAH franchises and a certain Hamilton based senior hockey team that has been a powerhouse for the past few years.
Call it speculation, call it what you will, but it’s well known that across North America and certainly overseas in Russia, the Mob and sports go hand in hand.
What’s your favourite folk lore/legend about your local hockey team?