TORONTO – In his freshly published memoir, Richard Peddie, the retired chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, takes a dim view of Vince Carter, a player who was once the biggest name in Peddie’s empire. Carter “had little heart,” and had “no ability to rise to the occasion” for the Toronto Raptors, unlike the game’s true stars.
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“Vince was a mama’s boy,” Peddie writes.
“Did I say that?” Peddie said with a laugh, lingering over a glass of Austrian lager inside the Four Seasons hotel bar in Toronto.
He did indeed.
“He was a mama’s boy,” Peddie said, smiling.
It has been almost two years since Peddie retired from his post at the top of the structural food chain at MLSE, having spent the previous 15 years helping build the company into a sports-based monolith that is without peer in Canada.
In his book, Dream Job: My wild ride on the corporate side with the Leafs, the Raptors and TFC (HarperCollins, $32.99), Peddie offers a glimpse behind the business story at MLSE. It becomes a hybrid: part business manual and part sports book, with just a dash of kiss-and-tell.
Peddie offers a handful of anecdotes. Dwayne De Rosario, an aging and unhappy star with Toronto FC, once allegedly included these in his demands for a four-year contract extension: a condominium at Maple Leaf Square, next to the arena, and tickets to every MLSE event.
We tried the appeasement, sucking-up mode with him, with cars and his own security guard. He was Vince. That didn’t work out so well
Peddie also writes of a time after the Ottawa Senators lost a playoff series to the Leafs — Toronto beat Ottawa in four series, between 2000 and 2004 — and the team’s owner was allegedly upset. Peddie claims Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was so upset, in fact, that he “punched a hole in the wall of the visitors’ dressing room” at Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs did not bill the Senators for the damage, according to Peddie.
Some of the most detailed criticism, though, seems to find Carter, a player Peddie admits helped establish the Raptors early in his career. With his cousin, Tracy McGrady, also on the team, Toronto was once a franchise with promise.
“There were jealousies between them,” Peddie said. “Everyone played up that they were cousins. There was not a lot of closeness. Again, maybe it was the egos. They both wanted to be the man. And not everyone can be the man.”
Tim Fraser for National Post
Tim Fraser for National PostFormer MLSE CEO Richard Peddie is known for being at the helm for one of the darkest eras in the history of Toronto sports.
McGrady left and Carter’s tenure began to sour.
“We tried the appeasement, sucking-up mode with him, with cars and his own security guard,” Peddie said. “He was Vince. That didn’t work out so well.”
In the book, Peddie writes: “Vince was a mama’s boy, and his mother was a force.”
Underneath the lower bowl at the Air Canada Centre, in a hallway monitored by security personnel during games, MLSE established an upscale space known as “The Directors’ Lounge,” where owners, executives and sponsors can mingle during games.
According to Peddie: “Larry Tanenbaum told Carter’s mother to come in ‘any time you want.’ And she did. Mrs. Carter got used to going in there, and even after Vince was traded in 2004, she attempted to go into the lounge.”
She was, allegedly, turned away.
Peddie decided to write the book during his final year at MLSE. He covers his ascent up the corporate ladder, from a middling high school student in Windsor, Ont., the son of a precision tools maker, to a fast-tracking executive in the big city. It is a success story.
And then, there is the sports. The Raptors have floundered, TFC is unprecedented in the sheer scope of its failure, and the Leafs were mired in the longest post-season drought in franchise history when Peddie walked out the door.
“I wanted to talk about how much we tried to win,” he said, leaning back in his chair at the hotel bar. “I really addressed that bulls— that we didn’t want to win. That was absolute crap. We tried.”
And therein lies the truth of his dueling legacy at MLSE: a strong, respected, successful leader on the business side who never got to wear a championship ring. (The book will be stocked in the business section of bookstores, he said.)
“We did everything we could,” he said. “So don’t tell me we didn’t want to win. We just didn’t win.”