Charge: Impaired driving causing death

Updated: December 17, 2003, 5:08 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- Retired NHL defenseman Rob Ramage was charged Tuesday in the three-car crash that killed Keith Magnuson, a former player and coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Magnuson, 56, was a passenger in the car Ramage was driving Monday night. They were returning from a funeral in suburban Toronto when their vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane and struck an SUV, which was then hit by another car, police said.

Magnuson died at the scene. Ramage, a former Toronto Maple Leafs captain, was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery for a dislocated hip, said York Regional Police spokeswoman Kathleen Griffin.

A woman in another vehicle had non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Ramage, 44, was charged with impaired driving causing death, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, police said. Later Tuesday, a charge of dangerous driving causing death was added. Police said they were awaiting results from blood tests before deciding whether to upgrade the charges to drunk driving.

Ramage and Magnuson had been at the funeral of Keith McCreary, the NHL's alumni association chairman who died last week of cancer.

Magnuson was a rugged defenseman for the Blackhawks from 1969 to 1980 and coached the team for 1 seasons. He played in 589 games over 11 seasons, all with Chicago, and coached the Blackhawks 1980-82. His record was 49-57-26.

Magnuson continued to live in the Chicago area and remained visible with the team until his death, Blackhawks spokesman Jim DeMaria said. Magnuson was a member of the Blackhawks' 75th anniversary all-star team selected in 2001.

"He was a member of the alumni association of the Blackhawks and of the NHL," DeMaria said. "He was always down at the United Center, and he always wished the team well."

The Blackhawks announced plans for a memorial service Saturday afternoon, at which the entire team and former players Stan Mikita and Jack Fitzsimmons will act as honorary pallbearers. The service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest in north suburban Chicago.

"Maggie helped every player who came here,'" Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter said. "He was the ultimate competitor on the ice and very compassionate off the ice. He just cared so much for people. He was proud to be a Blackhawk."

Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz issued a statement extending sympathies to Magnuson's family.

"Keith was an outstanding human being, and we're all deeply saddened by this devastating loss," Wirtz said.

Ramage played in the NHL 1979-94, totaling 139 goals at 425 assists. He captained the Maple Leafs 1989-91. He also played for the old Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Minnesota North Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.

Magnuson was an extremely aggressive player who fought frequently and didn't win very often.

To compensate for that, he took boxing lessons and would work himself into a pique before the start of each game. He became a team leader, who adopted coach Billy Reay's defensive mantra of "None Against." That meant that Magnuson would strive at all costs to keep the puck out of his own net.

Legends of, the Hockey Hall of Fame's Web site, quoted him as saying he'd stop the puck with his teeth if necessary.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press