Ex-Leafs captain Vaive testifies at his DUI trial

Former Maple Leafs star Rick Vaive leaves Newmarket Court after testifying at his drunk driving...

Former Maple Leafs star Rick Vaive leaves Newmarket Court after testifying at his drunk driving trial in Newmarket, Ont., Aug. 3, 2011. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

MICHEL MANDEL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:43 AM ET

NEWMARKET, ONT. - You couldn't help but cringe in sympathy and embarrassment for former Leafs captain Rick Vaive.

But I guess that was the idea.

Taking the stand in his own defence on impaired driving charges, Vaive took a deep breath and confessed that he's always had a bladder control problem and even has to carry an empty Gatorade bottle in the car with him wherever he goes.

"The bottle was full that day unfortunately," he testified Wednesday.

That humiliating admission -- elicited by his own lawyer -- seems designed to explain why Vaive had a urine stain on his shorts when he was arrested for drunk driving and brought into the York Regional Police station two years ago.

So incontinence -- not alcohol -- was to blame.

Vaive said he lied when he told police he'd only had one beer that day. In fact, he said he drank six cans of Coors Light while golfing with his former hockey buddies in Gravenhurst, Ont., but maintained he wasn't impaired.

"I thought my ability to drive was fine, I had no problem with it," he insisted. "If I had of, I wouldn't have driven."

At about 8 p.m. on July 14, 2009, Vaive was on his way home to Oakville, Ont., in his Ford F-150 pickup truck when he was pulled over by police on the southbound Hwy. 427 ramp from Hwy. 407. A witness had reported seeing him driving erratically in a Woodbridge, Ont., parking lot.

Handcuffed and placed in the cruiser, he was taken back to the station where he was charged with impaired driving after police say he blew more than twice the legal alcohol limit.

The news didn't leak out to the media until several months later. Vaive, 52, has pleaded not guilty in the judge-alone trial before Justice Anne-Marie Hourigan.

After the Crown closed its case -- the trial opened in February and was adjourned until now due to scheduling difficulties -- the former Leafs star was called to the witness box.

It was finally his turn to give his side of the story. His turn to repolish a tarnished image.

The first Leaf to ever score more than 50 goals in one season, Vaive was team captain from 1982 to 1986, before being stripped of the C for missing a practice. Court heard the retired 14-year hockey player earns his living these days with public appearances, speaking engagements and stints on a few corporate boards all because of his former NHL status.

His image then is obviously key and yet the silver-haired father of two readily admitted to a multitude of physical and emotional ailments -- including anxiety that requires a daily dose of Clonazepam, sleep apnea, a weak bladder, hip and prostate problems.

Yet his reputation can withstand all those far better than a conviction for impaired driving. And so Vaive blamed them all for his behaviour following his arrest while maintaining he was not drunk. He told the court he only lied to police because of nerves.

"Have you been consuming alcohol?" the cop had asked him during the video recorded breathalyzer test.

"Not today," Vaive replied. "I had one beer."

"OK, that's alcohol," the officer pointed out. "Just one?"

"Right," a weary Vaive responded. "It would have been about 2 o'clock."

He now says he had his sixth beer at about 5 p.m. before heading home from cottage country. The former hockey great told defence lawyer Mason Millar that he didn't tell the truth initially because he'd been up all night playing cards and was overtired and nervous.

"It was something I'd never been through before and it was something that just came out," Vaive explained.

The defence seems to be suggesting the breathalyzer was mistaken. Cross-examined by Millar, the Crown toxicologist had testified that a 6-foot-1, 218-pound man -- Vaive's vitals at the time -- who drank six cans of light beer between noon and 5 p.m. would not blow over the limit three hours later.

With the day of embarrassing admissions finally over and his cross-examination scheduled for Friday, the former Leafs captain left the courthouse with media cameras chasing him down the parking lot.

But no one else seemed to even know who he was.


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