No extras with this breakfast

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Richard Peddie was clear about one thing: He was heading back to Toronto.

What he wouldn't say was whether he was going to meet with former Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis.

Peddie, the chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, was in London yesterday morning to be the keynote speaker at the Western Mustangs first scholarship fundraising breakfast.

He focused his talk on leadership and how to gain success. What was on most people's minds, however, was what Peddie is going to do about hiring a new GM and coach.

Peddie wasn't giving anything away.

"Judging by the turnout this morning, you would think I was going to spill the beans on who the next captain, the next coach and who the next president and GM of the Leafs is going to be," Peddie said. "Not. You, like the hungry 30-plus media types that hound me every day . . . are going to have to wait for that to unfold."

Peddie talked about having made mistakes, but asserted those errors give you experience that gives you wisdom.

After his speech, he mentioned the "wisdom" he'd gained in hiring a relatively inexperienced John Ferguson Jr. as his general manager.

In turn, Peddie gave some insight into the kind of guy who will be hired next as the Leafs' GM.

"I believe John was the right person at the time," Peddie said. "But I know I learned one thing. It's a tough market. It is really a tough market. Every GM is going to make mistakes, every one of them. . . . In this market, you want an experienced person who made mistakes and is a real veteran. It's not for rookies. That's what I Iearned."

There's no question the heat is on Peddie. He talked about the two websites dedicated to petitions to get him removed as chief executive. One website, firerichardpeddie.ca, has close to 14,000 signatures.

He comes under constant criticism about his performance. Most people would say they don't read the newspapers. Not Peddie.

"Presidents are people, too. We bleed. I read all of it," he said. "Some people say they don't, but I have to. There may be something there we have to correct or be mindful of. It's tough some days. But this job is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be comfortable that you are doing the right thing."

Even with a coach to be hired and the National Hockey League draft not far off, Peddie won't be pushed into a timeline for hiring.

He may want to reconsider. A long search for a president and general manager may make experienced coaches such as Joel Quenneville and Ron Wilson -- both looking for work -- unavailable.

"We've got a very experienced person in (interim GM) Cliff Fletcher that gives us the luxury of taking our time to get the very best person. I'm also not putting a gate on it because that starts a countdown clock," Peddie said.

Peddie was asked about the tediousness of the process.

"(I believe) you hire slowly and fire quickly," he said. "You've got to go through this. This is arguably the most important sports job in Canada. Maybe the most important sports job in the NHL when you are hiring the president and GM."

He's relying on lawyer Gord Kirke, who is heading the search committee, to offer his insights into the new hiring. But even with the wounds still fresh from his experience hiring Ferguson, a decision for which Peddie continues to be roasted, Peddie isn't about to move to the second row.

"I'm the CEO, it goes through me," he said.

A new general manager will then have to find a coach and deal with numerous player issues such as long-term contracts and the future of Leaf captain Mats Sundin.

Peddie said he "understood" why Sundin wouldn't waive his no-trade contract at the trade deadline last year and is "optimistic" Sundin will be back.

"He's told us he will make a decision sooner rather than later," Peddie said. "I know that Cliff is talking to him and his agent on a regular basis. I hope Mats comes back. He's a wonderful captain."

But first things first. After what he hoped was an inspiring speech, Peddie headed back to Toronto to find someone he hoped could do the same thing for his Leafs.

FACTS AND FIGURES

Western held its first fundraising scholarship breakfast yesterday at the London Convention Centre. More than 300 people attended. The university hopes to raise $5 million over three years to be placed into athletic financial awards. This is the first year Ontario universities have allowed these type of financial scholarships to be distributed. They are the last conference in Canada to do so.

Money raised: $23,000

University seed money: $700,000

Money raised to date: $1 million

Number of awards (athletic and needs based): 87

Amount of awards: $165,000

Maximum amount per award: $3,500

Entry requirement: 80 per cent average first year; 70 per cent retention in other years


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