TORONTO - Richard Peddie regrets he won’t go out a winner on the ice, but is confident his fingerprints will soon be on a future Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs.
In fact, his retirement deal calls for him to receive a coveted Cup ring should the hockey team suddenly surge to the top in the next few seasons. Peddie is stepping down Dec. 31 after almost 14 years as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. He oversaw a company that was successful everywhere but on the playing surface of its two hockey teams, the basketball Raptors and soccer’s TFC.
“My retirement agreement is that I get a ring if we do it in the next three years,” Peddie said on Saturday, adding with a laugh “the next guy is going to get all the credit and get his name on the Cup. Which is cool, because I think hockey is the only sport where the suits get their name on the trophy.
“I’m down to 17 weeks to go, but who’s counting? It has been a lot of fun and we’ve done a lot of good things, even though we haven’t won. I feel really good about our four teams, Aron (Winter’s) makevover of TFC and I love what Dallas Eakins is doing with the Marlies. Brian Burke (Leafs) and Bryan Colangelo (Raptors) have some good quality players. I just wish they would have won while I was here. But I’m sure our fans are going to see some winners.”
The search for Peddie’s successor has been on hold since MLSEL’s majority shareholders, the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, put its 66% control up for bidding. That move has not yet met a price the Teachers seek to cash in.
Meanwhile, the corporate head-hunting firm of Korn/Ferry International was hired to conduct a search for Peddie’s replacement last December.
Korn/Ferry pared down a long list and though it has looked as far away as the U.S., it has identified one internal MLSEL candidate, executive vice-president Tom Anselmi.
“Things are playing out,” a coy Anselmi said. “Once we know what the score is with the sale, they’ll get back into the search.”
The 64-year-old Peddie brought a strong business acumen to a company that’s now valued at more than a billion dollars, but he was heavily criticized for meddling in hockey matters. There were some difficulties surrounding Pat Quinn’s exit as general manager and a flawed choice in Peddie naming newcomer John Ferguson to the post. But Peddie bowed to the fans’ wishes in 2008 by getting a proven, Cup-winning personality in Burke and then stepping back to the boardroom.
Burke has yet to get the Leafs in the playoffs and his success or failure in the next couple of years will reflect on Peddie’s legacy.
“I was absolutely convinced he was the right guy,” Peddie said. “We did a very thorough search and analysis of the track record of almost all the GMs. Brian was under contract and we could not approach him for fear of tampering. So we waited (almost a year).
“When you are the general manager of the Leafs, it’s more than what you do on the ice. You’re a spokesman for hockey and the NHL. It takes a very special person to be captain of the Leafs and to be the GM.”
Peddie has said he will not be taking any high-profile jobs connected to sports once he leaves. He has spoken of spending more time in an environmentally friendly house that he and wife Colleen built on Bob-Lo Island in the Detroit River, near his Windsor roots.
Richard takes a bath
Gary Massey’s perfect fastball strike fulfilled the fantasy of many disgruntled Toronto sports fans.
Wearing a Maple Leafs’ ap, the 33-year-old employee of a local moving company became the first to send MLSEL president Richard Peddie into an ice-cold dunk tank during Saturday’s charity event outside the Air Canada Centre. The prize was Peddie’s own tickets to the Leafs’
Sept. 19 pre-season opener against Ottawa.
“I got Richard on my third pitch and (executive vice-president) Tom Anselmi on my second,” a pleased Massey said. “It’s good the brass is doing this to show they’re good sports. I’m a life-long Leaf fan and hopefully this will be the year we actually do something. They have a nice, young team right now and the goaltending situation is looking great.”
Dubbed the Sports Day In Maple Leaf Square, the interactive event for the MLSEL Team Up Foundation let fans meet Cody Franson and other figures from the MLSEL sports stable — while unloading a little frustration at the dunk tank.
“I was ready for someone to throw at my head,” quipped Peddie. “We started talking about a dunk tank for our employees for the event and then they said: ‘Can we put you in?’ ”
Fans voting via Twitter named Peddie as the one they most wanted to soak. With three balls for $5 and unlimited chances for $20 in a two-minute barrage, Massey was the third contestant, behind a kid in a Sidney Crosby jersey. Anselmi got into the spirit by wearing his business suit.
“We want people to come down and use the Square as a great gathering place,” Anselmi said. “And the sooner we can use it for playoffs, the better.”
A crowd of 4,000 gathered there in June to watch Game 7 of the Boston-Vancouver series on the giant outdoor screen and four movies have been shown at night.
“This will be an outstanding place for the playoffs and so will Real Sports (the adjacent bar that seats 1,000),” Peddie said. “We want people to know there’s always something going on here.”