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Former NHLer Rob Ramage gets second chance at parole after 10 months in jail

Former NHLer Rob Ramage gets into a waiting vehicle after being released from court in Newmarket, Ontario on Thursday Jan.17, 2008. Ramage will get a second chance at parole Thursday after concerns over his drinking habits derailed his first attempt two months ago.Ramage, 52, has served 10 months of a four-year sentence for impaired driving causing death in a crash that killed his friend and former NHLer Keith Magnuson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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Former NHLer Rob Ramage gets into a waiting vehicle after being released from court in Newmarket, Ontario on Thursday Jan.17, 2008. Ramage will get a second chance at parole Thursday after concerns over his drinking habits derailed his first attempt two months ago.Ramage, 52, has served 10 months of a four-year sentence for impaired driving causing death in a crash that killed his friend and former NHLer Keith Magnuson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

KINGSTON, Ont. - Former NHL defenceman Rob Ramage will get a second chance at parole Thursday after concerns over his drinking habits derailed his first attempt two months ago.

Ramage, 52, has served 10 months of a four-year sentence for impaired driving causing death in a crash that killed his friend and former NHLer Keith Magnuson.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner will appear before a new parole board at the Frontenac Institution on Thursday. A parole hearing in March left a two-person board split on whether to release him to a halfway house, though he was granted permission to leave the minimum-security prison for monthly unescorted absences.

At the hearing, the board recognized Ramage's good behaviour in jail, where he reportedly shovelled snow and mentored other inmates.

But they questioned whether he takes responsibility for the crash that killed his friend more than seven years ago.

Much of the hearing focused on his drinking habits.

Ramage had previously denied he was drunk at the wheel, despite urine and blood analyses that showed three times the level of alcohol permitted. But he admitted at the hearing to driving drunk.

Ramage maintained he has never been an alcoholic, instead describing himself as a "social drinker" who might have a beer or two before dinner and a glass of wine with a meal.

Ramage was convicted in 2007 of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

He was charged after the rental car he was driving slammed head-on into another vehicle north of Toronto in December 2003.

The two friends had just left a funeral reception for another former NHL player, Keith McCreary.

Ramage was jailed last July after the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected his bid for a new trial.

Ramage's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, had argued in the appeal to have the first-time offender's sentence reduced, calling it disproportionate for an upstanding citizen who had given much to the community.

Greenspan also said Magnuson's family had asked the trial judge to show leniency.

The court dismissed the conviction and sentence appeals.

Ramage will be eligible for full parole in November.

In the meantime, he is barred from buying, owning or drinking alcohol while away from the jail. Ramage said in March he hasn't consumed alcohol since the day of the crash.

He won Stanley Cups 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.

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