Vaive not drunk, Derlago testifies

SAM PAZZANO, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

Rick Vaive's former linemate deflected allegations that the former Maple Leafs captain was drunk while driving in July 2009 after two days of golfing in Muskoka.

Defence witness Bill Derlago testified Thursday that he was a back-seat passenger in Vaive's Ford F-150 truck after they spent the two days playing golf, cards and drinking with a handful of former Leafs in Gravenhurst, Ont.

"He looked fine. I'd know by looking at him and by the way he's walking and talking that he's impaired. I trusted him to drive," Derlago, 53, testified, adding he never noticed that Vaive was wearing urine-stained pants.

York Regional Police officers noted Vaive's messy clothes and obvious signs of intoxication when they pulled him over on the ramp to southbound Hwy. 427 from Hwy. 407 after a citizen reported a man barely able to stand drove away in a black pickup truck and nearly hit a building in Woodbridge, Ont., north of Toronto.

Derlago, the setup man for Vaive's 50-goal campaigns and best man at his wedding, left the truck and drove in his Honda to Brampton, Ont., shortly before police charged Vaive with having more than twice the legal limit of .80 mg of alcohol.

Vaive, 52, who pleaded not guilty in his judge-alone trial, insisted to Justice Anne-Marie Hourigan he wasn't impaired as he headed home to Oakville, Ont., after drinking only six cans of Coors Light beer over 5 1/2 hours earlier that day.

Derlago denied Crown attorney Jon Fuller's suggestions that he was Vaive's "wing man" trying to help him evade a drunk-driving conviction.

"No, I'm just here to tell you what I saw. Ricky hasn't been drunk in a while (in his presence)," countered Derlago, who's still Vaive's good friend and sees him weekly.

Vaive testified earlier that the last time he was drunk was at his 50th birthday party two months before his July 14, 2009, arrest when he drank between 15 and 20 beers.

While some of his testimony backed Vaive's account, some of Derlago's evidence contradicted his former teammate.

Vaive told officers that he played horribly in golf earlier on the day of his arrest because he was "hungover" from an all-night poker and beer-drinking session that ended at 4:30 a.m. Derlago stated that Vaive outplayed him on the course that day and showed no ill effects.

Defence counsel Calvin Barry and Fuller will give closing submissions Feb. 22.

sam.pazzano@sunmedia.ca


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