Big news in hockey on Thursday was Bob Nicholson's announcement that he will be stepping down from Hockey Canada effective June 1st, 2014.
Nicholson goes out on top with back-to-back Olympic gold medal championships in both the men's and women's games. Success was an expectation under Nicholson, and it came often be it in the men's, women's and juniors divisions. He won 5 Olympic golds (3 women, 2 men), 12 World Junior golds, and 15 World Championship golds (10 women, 5 men)
The 60 year old, Vancouver born Nicholson has been Hockey Canada's president and CEO since 1998. He has been with Hockey Canada since 1990. While most fans recognize Nicholson as the head man at the Olympics or world juniors, the real key to his job has always been hockey at the local level. Hockey Canada's mandate covers all hockey in the country, including youth excellence programs, coaching, officiating and safety. Ultimately Hockey Canada's mandate is not to win gold medals but to "Lead, Develop, and Promote Positive Hockey Experiences."
Nicholson deserves a lot of credit for his less-known accomplishments at local levels, but Hockey Canada does face significant challenges in the years ahead. Ultimately the solutions will all be found at the grass roots level. Injuries, violence, quality coaching and rising costs are all serious concerns. Attracting new Canadians - who come from countries where another sport is king - also has to be a key area of concern.
What is in Bob Nicholson's future? There has been speculation that he is first in line to replace Rene Fasel as the top man with the International Ice Hockey Federation. Rumours also have Fasel either retiring or moving up the hierarchy of the International Olympic Committee.
There will also likely be interest from NHL teams. Nicholson was said to be highly sought after by the Toronto Maple Leafs when Brian Burke was removed as top man in 2013. Stories at the time suggested it was Nicholson's job for the taking but he was not interested for whatever reason.