MOBSTERS AND MAYHEM: Bizarre story of hockey’s Danbury Trashers

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It sounds like something a third-rate Hollywood producer might conjure up.

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“It’s kinda like Mighty Ducks meets the Sopranos,” the low-rent auteur might suggest, and toss in some WWE.

“It’s truly unreal what’s been going on. It hasn’t really slowed down,” A.J. Galante recently told the Toronto Sun from his boxing gym in Danbury, Conn.

What Galante, 31, is talking about is the juggernaut Netflix documentary Untold: Crime and Penalties that premiered in August.

The documentary tells the story of AJ’s waste disposal tycoon father, James “Jimmy” Galante — a reputed Gambino crime family associate and described as a “real-life Tony Soprano” — the Danbury Trashers of the UHL, and the son who found himself general manager of a minor league hockey team when he was 17 years old.

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“When we got asked to do it, my father and I’s initial reaction was ‘No’. Finally, though, we decided to do it. The Trashers rose so fast, like a phoenix, and then it all blew up just as fast. We wanted to put it to bed,” A.J. told the Sun.

A.J. Galante and his father, Jimmy of the Danbury Trashers. HANDOUT/NETFLIX
A.J. Galante and his father, Jimmy of the Danbury Trashers. HANDOUT/NETFLIX

In 2004, Jimmy Galante bought a franchise in the UHL for the teen to run. The team would be named the Danbury Trashers after Jimmy’s waste disposal empire.

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Two years later, the ride was over when Jimmy, now 69, was indicted on a slew of charges, including defrauding the UHL, ultimately killing the franchise. His son was devastated for his father and the Trashers.

A.J. moved on — until Netflix producers came calling.

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Danbury isn’t a hockey hotbed. Before the Galantes, the blue-collar town north of the Big Apple didn’t even have a rink. And then when he was seven years old, A.J. saw the Disney hockey film The Might Ducks and that changed everything.

“It became a huge part of my life. I knew pretty early on I wasn’t going to make the NHL, but I enjoyed hockey so much. I loved talking with the guys about stuff like the enforcer’s code,” A.J. said.

He started playing the game and got pretty good at it: A burly, bruising player who wasn’t afraid to use his size.

Danbury Trashers. AJ GALANTE/ FACEBOOK
Danbury Trashers. AJ GALANTE/ FACEBOOK

“I checked a guy in a high school game, clean, hard hit. The guy went down like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t feel anything,… then I realized I was injured. I landed the best hit of my life, I felt like Scott Stevens,” A.J. recalled, adding he didn’t feel any pain.

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But he went off the ice on a stretcher. A doctor told him he would never play hockey again.

“I was totally distraught,” A.J. said.

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A.J. Galante remembers it well. In 2004, he walked into his school and noticed people were looking at him funny. They knew something he didn’t: His father had just purchased a franchise in the United Hockey League, and he would be the general manager. He was 17-years-old.

From the start, A.J. knew what he wanted. A bit of WWE, a bit of Mighty Ducks, and a whole lot of Slapshot.

The Galantes would cut corners. For starters, the players they drafted loved playing there, the payroll was the highest in the league, wives were on the waste disposal payroll. All very dodgy.

A.J. was helped by former equipment manager and longtime family friend, Tommy “T-Bone” Pomposello, a bald, cigar-smoking bruiser who had a steady smirk behind his tinted glasses.

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“His heart is so big he couldn’t get in through the door. But it’s not an act, that’s the real Tommy you see there. He has always been good to me and my family,” A.J. said.

With their bruising style and a circus-like atmosphere, the Trashers seemed to be the reincarnation of the Broad Street Bullies from the 1970s. And the players were devoted to the owner and their young GM.

“Right from the start, we told them we would be in the trenches with them. We didn’t see ourselves above them, we took their suggestions with marketing and players,” A.J. said.

Danbury Trashers: The mob meets Slapshot. AJ GALANTE/ FACEBOOK
Danbury Trashers: The mob meets Slapshot. AJ GALANTE/ FACEBOOK

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The Trashers fought with everyone.  And then the party came crashing down.

In June 2006, Jimmy was indicted on a slew of charges, including racketeering. One of the charges was connected to the Trashers, something about wire fraud. Jimmy Galante pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

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He was sentenced to 87 months in prison. In 2006, as Galante’s troubles mounted, the Trashers disbanded.

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“I kind of walked away from it, but since the documentary was filmed two years ago, I’m firing up for hockey again. I’m still a Devils fan,” A.J. said. “The game is so different now — faster, more skill.”

Today, the 34-year-old owns the Champs Boxing Club and is also passing on his love of hockey to the under-privileged kids of Danbury. Sessions in the ring are now punctuated by road hockey.

One of the places were the documentary has resonated is Canada, particularly Toronto, A.J. said

“It’s come full circle but what I think I really want to do is move to Canada,” he said, adding that both he and his father thought Crimes and Penalties was “very fair” and “balanced”.

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“Hockey needs a new demographic. I bought 20 street hockey sticks. If a kid gives us a rough time at the gym, I’ll tell him, ‘Get the goalie equipment on,’ and we all fire the balls at him,” A.J. said.

In true Trashers style.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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