Ex-Leafs Vaive waffling at DUI trial

Rick Vaive was arrested in July of 2009 on a charge of impaired driving.

Rick Vaive was arrested in July of 2009 on a charge of impaired driving.

MICHELE MANDEL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:17 PM ET

NEWMARKET - Former Leaf captain Rick Vaive may have had a lot of fancy moves on the ice but the only one he had in the witness box was a perpetual squirm.

The 52-year-old was waffling more than a hot "Let Go My Eggo" while being cross-examined by assistant Crown attorney Jon Fuller on the events two years ago surrounding his being charged with driving with more than twice the legal alcohol limit.

Vaive, who pleaded not guilty in his judge-alone trial, insisted he wasn't impaired as he headed home to Oakville after two days of golf in Gravenhurst with several former NHL buddies. In fact, he said, the last time he was drunk was at his 50th birthday party a few months before his July 14, 2009, arrest when he drank between 15 and 20 beers.

He maintained he drinks less than many of his cronies but often has a few beers with former NHLers after their charity hockey games.

"Hockey and beer go together," Fuller said.

"A lot of things and beer go together," he smiled.

Asked about drinking and driving, Vaive said his usual limit was three drinks before getting behind the wheel.

"Are there any occasions when you've broken that rule?" Fuller asked.

"That day in question," he conceded. "July 14."

But later Vaive tried to backtrack by saying he didn't really violate his own guideline by consuming half a dozen beers before getting into his pickup truck.

"It was six beers over 5 1/2 hours," he argued. "I figured it was okay because of the time frame."

That was indicative of his constant back-pedalling Friday as he tried to squirm out of several incriminating statements he'd made to police. But the former 50-goal scoring forward was outplayed at every turn.

When he was arrested after a witness reported him staggering in a parking lot and then driving erratically, Vaive told York Regional Police officers he'd only had one beer. During his second day on the stand, Vaive said that was a "mistake" he made because he was tired and nervous.

But the prosecutor suggested it was really a deliberate lie.

"I didn't intentionally lie," Vaive argued. "It just came out."

Despite repeated questioning, Vaive denied he was hung over from being up the night before his arrest drinking beer and playing poker. But like a perfect "gotcha", Fuller then took him to his recorded statements at the police station before his breathalyzer test.

"Are you ill or sick?" an officer asked him.

"Hung over, ya," Vaive replied, "but not..."

Faced with his own quote, he said he misspoke: "What I meant was that I was extremely tired and I felt like I was hung over."

It seems he misspoke a lot that night.

Vaive twice told police he blamed his lousy golf game on his being up the night before drinking and playing cards. He now says he only drank three beers during the all-night poker game and finished the last one at 12:30 a.m.

"I didn't mean we were drinking beer 'til 4:30," he insisted.

Fuller accused him of doing exactly that. "That would be very incorrect," an increasingly angry Vaive shot back.

The prosecutor then moved in for the body check.

He went back to Vaive's humiliating testimony that he'd wet his pants on the drive home from golfing because of a long-time bladder control issue that had nothing to do with consuming too much alcohol. He even said he carried an empty Gatorade bottle in his truck for emergencies but it was full.

Fuller said his story didn't make sense. Why wouldn't he have just emptied the bottle out the window if he needed it? Why wouldn't he stop at a rest station to change his wet shorts?

"The reason why you didn't do any of those things is because you weren't thinking clearly because of all the alcohol you consumed that day," the Crown charged.

"That's absolutely not true," Vaive countered. "I was going home. I wasn't uncomfortable."

But the former hockey great had been slammed into the boards and it wasn't pretty. He'll have several months to heal, though. With no court dates available sooner, his trial resumes Feb. 16, 2012.

michele.mandel@sunmedia.ca


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