Former NHL player Rob Ramage (inset) is likely to be paroled today, eight months after he began serving a four-year prison sentence. The one-time captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs went to prison in July last year after he lost an appeal of his conviction for driving drunk and crashing his car, killing his passenger and friend, former Chicago Blackhawks star defenceman Keith Magnuson.
The December 2003 collision left a Toronto area woman with serious injuries. Ramage’s car veered across the centre line of a four-lane road north of Toronto and struck two other vehicles. Tests showed that his blood-alcohol level was two and half to four times greater than the legal limit.
Ramage, 52, is seeking release from minimum-security Frontenac Institution in Kingston, Ont. His parole hearing will be held Friday morning inside the prison.
Ramage has been a model inmate who is respected and liked by staff and other inmates at the prison, sources told me.
“This is not your average inmate,” said one source, who holds a supervisory position at Frontenac. “He accepted what he did and he’s a very honest, sincere person and a real gentleman.”
Ramage took on manual jobs on the prison grounds that are shunned by most convicts, like snow shovelling. He also has been granted escorted passes to leave the facility, including trips to meet with members of Kingston’s Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs. Ramage has spoken to the young pros in training about the dangers of alcohol.
Although his parole is not a certainty, Ramage went to prison with strong support for early freedom. His victim’s family pleaded with the sentencing judge at his trial not to put him behind bars.
“We have long ago forgiven Rob for his mistake,” said Kevin Magnuson, the victim’s son. “Please understand that as the direct victims of this crime, a prison sentence will not be seen as any measure of justice, but will simply exacerbate our pain and create additional victims in Rob’s family.”
Ontario’s top court noted that Ramage lived an “exemplary life” and was an “outstanding member of the community” whose remorse was “real and deep.”
Ramage and Magnuson had been to the funeral of a friend on the afternoon of the crash. After the funeral, they attended a reception at a golf club in Caledon. They stayed several hours, then left to attend an NHL alumni association meeting nearby. At a gentle curve on Rutherford Road, at about 5 p.m., Ramage’s car veered across four lanes, clipped a vehicle and then slammed head on into a Nissan Pathfinder driven by 39-year-old Michelle Pacheco. Magnuson died at the scene.
Ramage was found guilty of five crimes, including impaired driving causing death. His sentence expires July 8, 2014, according to Corrections Canada.
Ramage played 18 seasons in the NHL, winning Stanley Cups in Calgary and Montreal. He was captain in Toronto from 1989 to 1991.
(this story appeared first at Canada.com)