Image Courtesy of SI.com
By Jack Cherico
For some, sports are something to watch when you are bored and see nothing on TV. However, sports can take on a new meaning to rally behind, identify with, and love. For the people of Danbury, Connecticut, in 2004, the Danbury Trashers hockey team of the UHL (United Hockey League) took on that meaning. Most people have never heard of the Trashers before. However, due to a new film about the club on the Netflix documentary series “Untold,” people all over the country are learning about this small city minor league hockey team. To understand the Trashers, one must learn about the team’s owner, Jimmy Galente.
Galente owned Automated Waste Disposal, a large waste management company controlling western Connecticut and Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York. Despite being known throughout the community as a philanthropist who donated a new football stadium to New Fairfield high school and a pediatric wing of the Danbury hospital, Galente was not a good man. Galente and his silent partner Thomas Milo extorted multiple businesses throughout their territory to profit from commercial garbage disposal contracts. Galente was also alleged to have conspired to commit arson and kidnapping by damaging a truck owned by one of Galante’s competitors and kidnapping the driver of that truck at gunpoint. The FBI had been investigating Galente since the 1990s, and he ended up serving a year and a day in 1999 for tax evasion. However, the FBI did not get what they wanted from Galente, so they kept a steady watch on him. Although Galente was not a good person, he wanted to give his son, AJ, a privileged life.
When AJ was 17, a senior in high school, Galente purchased the rights to a minor league hockey team and named them the Danbury Trashers due to his massive waste management company. Danbury is a city of fewer than 90,000 people, so it was a huge deal for this new professional sports team to pop up. Jimmy and AJ had a logo, a name, and a location but needed some players to go out on the ice and win some games. The 17-year-old delivered, on that front, bringing in enforcers Brad Wingfield and Roman Ndur, whom both were known for their brutal fights on the ice, as well as David Beauregard and Mike Rupp, who were goal-scoring machines.
All these players had one thing in common: they were gritty. These players were big names yet did not come cheap. UHL’s salary was around $125 per game, but of course, that was not all Galente was doing for them. Jimmy gave some players a 10,000 signing bonus, all in cash, hosted 6,000 dollar dinners, and on multiple occasions, he would slap thousands of dollars worth of cash down on the table after a big win. These transgressions were entirely against the UHL rules, and the team was found to be 500,000 dollars over the salary cap, but Galente did not care. The Galentes wanted a team that embodied the blue-collar population of Danbury, as well as one that he could identify with due to his violent profession. In their first season, the fans loved the Trashers and went on to place second in the division with 95 points and set a UHL record for penalty minutes at 2,776.
The Danbury ice arena was electric and set UHL attendance records every night. However, the team’s famous fan section, section 102, was known for its rowdiness and antagonizing UHL commissioner Richard Bros. The Trashers racked up goals, fights, and wins; the heat turned up on Galente. In 2006, after the Trashers lost to the Kalamazoo Wings in the championship, Galente was indicted and charged with 93 various charges, including racketeering, tax evasion, extortion, wire fraud, witness tampering, and finally, paying a mob tax to Genovese crime family boss “Matty the Horse” Ianniello.
After being forced to give up control of over 20 companies worth over 100 million dollars, Galente was sentenced to 87 months in prison for his crimes. Galente’s Thrashers folded under the financial burden placed upon them, and they were lost to history. Nevertheless, the citizens of Danbury remember the Trashers, and one fan even has in his will that he wants to be buried in his Trashers jersey. The Danbury Trashers may have been a circus, who completely embarrassed the sport of hockey, but the 90’s Detroit Pistons and 70’s Philadelphia Flyers proved it; everyone loves bad boys.