LONDON, ONT. - To some, the appearance of Rob Ramage behind the OHL London Knights' bench was a failure of the justice system to exact a proper measure of payment for a crime committed.
To others, the appearance of Ramage behind the bench was a step in the right direction, a new beginning for a human being who made a mistake, paid for it and continues to pay for it.
There is a time for moving on and that time arrived Friday night a little after 7:30 when Ramage walked along the boards with Knights' head coach Mark Hunter as one of his assistant coaches along with Dylan Hunter and Misha Donskov.
Ramage's Knights hammered the Saginaw Spirit 6-0 at the John Labatt Centre and he was behind the bench a very public part of it.
For the rest of his life Ramage will have to deal with what he did on the day he got into a car after drinking with the trip ending in the death of his friend Keith Magnuson. There is no time for moving on for Ramage when it comes to that. He will remember it forever.
He served prison time. He continues to be free on parole and part of his life will never be the same.
But a trip back from nowhere has to begin somewhere. The first steps began when Ramage helped them in the summer. It became more evident as he helped them in practice.
Friday was a giant leap, a public acknowledgement by the Knights that Ramage was now an official part of the team.
It was going to happen eventually as it should.
It was a statement that it was time for Ramage, and everyone else, to move on.
But in order for that to happen, Ramage needed to come out of the shadows.
That happened Friday night.
Ramage doesn't do interviews, yet.
According to Knights' coach, general manager Mark Hunter, Ramage preferred to remain silent before Friday night's game.
"There are reasons for that," Hunter said.
So in a week when the Knights made international hockey news with their coach Dale Hunter going to Washington Capitals as their head coach, they figured there was no better time for Ramage to make the jump.
If there is a soft underbelly to the Knights, it might be now with so much happening, so many adjustments being made and so much stuff away from the rink they have to deal with.
From a hockey perspective, Hunter needed some experience with him on the bench and a guy who played 16 years in the NHL is invaluable.
"As much as I would like to take credit for the defence, I didn't have anything to do with it," Hunter said. "It was Rob and Misha. It was a good time to transition."
Hunter said he doesn't know what restrictions Ramage has in terms of his parole. He also said he didn't know whether Ramage eventually would have been behind the bench if brother Dale was still in London.
Was Ramage ready to get behind the bench?
"Yeah, he was ready," Hunter said. "He likes to work with young men and they like him."
Was he nervous about appearing on the bench?
"He was excited," Hunter said before the game.
"He was really happy," Hunter said after the game.
Could the Ramage move have waited a year if Dale hadn't left?
"I can't answer that. Whenever is the perfect point?" Hunter said. "We talked about it, talked about it, talked about it, talked about it. It was time."
It was -- for the Knights and Ramage.
"The organization needed all hands on deck and right now, all hands on deck means I want four guys on the bench right now," Hunter said. "Rob is an important part of the organization.
"For me, it's all about the hockey club. What's best for the hockey club is this."
Good for Hunter. Good for the Knights -- and in the end, good for Ramage.
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