TORONTO – Former NHL player Rob Ramage began serving a four-year prison sentence Monday after losing a bid for a new trial on impaired driving charges in a car crash that killed another ex-NHL player.
Ramage, 51, was convicted in 2007 of four charges including impaired driving causing death in the crash that killed his friend Keith Magnuson.
In addition to the prison sentence, Ramage received a five-year driving ban, but had been out on bail and living in the United States.
The decision rejecting the appeal was filed by the Ontario Court of Appeal on Friday and Ramage surrendered to police on Monday, his lawyer Brian Greenspan said.
“He will now commence serving his sentence,” Greenspan said. “I think it’s fair to say that it is unlikely the matter will be pursued further.”
Efforts will be made to go through the system as quickly as possible and have Ramage “released to a halfway house at the earliest available time,” he said.
Magnuson, 56, was killed when a rental car driven by Ramage slammed head-on into another vehicle north of Toronto in December 2003.
The two men had just left a funeral reception for another former NHL player, Keith McCreary.
Ramage was convicted of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on all five counts he had faced, but the trial judge stayed a charge of driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.
Greenspan argued for a new trial, saying that Ramage, having been given morphine for pain following the crash, was in no state to give informed consent when an officer asked him for a urine sample.
The trial judge ruled that the officer had merely collected and preserved what he knew could be potentially relevant evidence.
The seizure of the urine sample was comparable to the seizure of a “discarded tissue,” the appeal court justices wrote in upholding the trial judge’s decision to allow the evidence.
“The evidence was properly admitted.”
However, the court said it was concerned by the officer’s “attitude towards the appellant’s rights.”
The Crown conceded the Charter violation, but argued the trial judge rightly allowed the urine evidence because the officer’s conduct fell short of “flagrant or egregious.”
Greenspan said Monday that Ramage will be fully eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence, but could be released on day parole before then.
“Obviously there’s a sense of disappointment in the family and by all of us,” Greenspan said.
“As usual Rob handled it with his usual sense of dignity and with some sense of resignation,” he said.
“He is an extraordinary person and a decent human being and will have to live with the results of the appeal, and has done so and will do so in an appropriate manner.”
Ramage won Stanley Cup rings with the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens. He also played for the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota North Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers. Ramage retired after the 1993-94 season.
Magnuson was a rugged defenceman who played his entire 11-season NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, retiring after the 1979-80 campaign. He also coached the team for a season and a half.