There can be no winners

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

NEWMARKET -- Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage was so confused after crashing his rental car on that December afternoon in 2003 that he thought another former hockey player -- and not Keith Magnuson -- was the victim in the passenger seat.

"How's Gary? How's Gary," Ramage asked York Region Const. Shannon Reisberry in the hospital.

"Mr. Ramage did not appear to know who was in the vehicle with him," prosecutor Paul Tait told a jury of eight men and four women in a concise, yet droning, opening address yesterday morning.

The words may have been delivered without emotion. The impact, though, was stark and sorrowful.

No matter how the case against the former Leaf captain Ramage plays out, there can be no winners here: This is a case of victims.

One ex-hockey player dead.

One on trial, pleading not guilty to the five charges he faces here.

Many lives altered forever.

RENTED CAR

Ramage and Magnuson got into a rental car on the morning of Dec. 15, and according to Tait's opening statement, drove to a liquor store in Bolton, purchased beer, and later drove to a post-funeral reception of former hockey player Keith McCreary -- spending more than four hours, in all, at the reception at Glen Eagle Golf Club .

Some 30 minutes after leaving the reception, Ramage, driving eastbound on Rutherford Rd. in Woodbrige crossed three lanes of the four-lane roadway "without zig-zagging" and crashed into one vehicle, then head-on into another -- both of the other two vehicles were travelling in the far lane, in the opposite direction.

Magnuson, 56, the former Chicago defenceman and coach, the passenger in the vehicle driven by Ramage, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Ramage, a long time NHL player, is charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and driving over the legal limit of alcohol.

His case finally began yesterday, three years and almost nine months after Magnuson's death.

The thought of there being any kind of celebrity justice -- if such a thing exists in this country -- seemed to evaporate in a tiny courtroom yesterday morning.

This didn't look or feel like anything about celebrity.

Ramage, appearing tight-faced, steely-eyed almost Harrison Ford-like in court, had his wife, Dawn and his grown-up children, Tamara, Jaclyn, and John, sitting behind him for support.

CRUSHED BEER CANS

The closest thing to a celebrity in the court, aside from the defence lawyer, Brian Greenspan, was marginal NHL player, Basil McRae, a close friend of the Ramage family.

Det.-Const. Jeffrey Evans testified yesterday that crushed Labatt 50 beer cans were found on the floor of Ramage's rented Chrysler Intrepid and broken glass from tumblers was just outside the vehicle.

Det.-Const. Scott McVeigh, the first officer on the scene after the daytime accident, said he could smell "an alcohol beverage coming from the car ... I could also smell it from the passenger side of the car."

And so it began as the trial continues today.

The evidence may be overwhelming against Ramage: Who knows how this case expected to last three weeks will turn out?

But celebrity justice this won't be.


Videos

Photos