After 120 medals in international competition, including 44 gold medals, Bob Nicholson is stepping down as president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada.
Yet, the highlight for the Penticton native, since he took on the position in 1998, was building at the grassroots level.
“Trying to get the initiation program and get kids involved in the game, that has been a big challenge,” said Nicholson during a phone interview while in Victoria for meetings. “Maybe my most satisfying part of the job.”
The Hockey Canada website states there are now more than 570,000 kids playing hockey across Canada.
Nicholson, 60, also played a leadership role in the staging of the 1999 Molson Open Ice Hockey Summit, the 2010 Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit and the implementation or growth of numerous development programs, such as the Hockey Canada Skills Academy program, the Initiation Program, teaching resources, safety and grassroots initiatives. On the international stage, Nicholson serves as a vice-president with the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Nicholson, who stepped down from his position on April 4 for June 1, said he will miss the people he has been in contact with most. He will also miss being on the road just about every day. Nicholson said it was hard for him to make this decision.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to be the president of Hockey Canada,” he said. “Representing hockey across this country and around the world. I just really thought the time was right. Winning double gold in Russia after doing that in Vancouver.”
He agreed there is no better time to step away than going out on top. It will give him the chance to spend more time with his family (wife Lorna and children Mandi, Marijean and Grant) and go to Penticton.
He’s also looking forward to playing golf.
“I’ve never really taken holidays,” he said. “Even when I’m in Penticton, I’m on the phone for three hours every day. I want to see what that’s like.”
Nicholson had mixed emotions during the press conference about the announcement and thanked the Hockey Canada board of directors.
Nicholson said he received a note from the Penticton Golf and Country Club saying his old job of picking up golf balls wasn’t available but they would see what they could get for him.
“They might pay me more,” he joked. “No driving range, but get me washing clubs again.”
Nicholson exits as Hockey Canada finishes plans for celebrating its 100th anniversary.
“It’s going to be real big,” he said of the celebration. “It’s going to be really neat. We have hired a whole crew for it. It will be one of the biggest initiatives we’ve had.”
Jim Hornell, chairman of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors, thanked Nicholson on behalf of Hockey Canada and those involved in the game for his outstanding service to the organization, and also to hockey in Canada and around the world.
“I would personally like to wish Bob well in his future endeavours, and thank him for a legacy of success and professionalism that he has helped grow at Hockey Canada,” said Hornell.
The Hockey Canada board of directors will establish a process and timeline for the naming of a new president and CEO over the coming months.