There will, of course, be immediate speculation over what lies ahead for Bob Nicholson, the long-time Hockey Canada president and chief operating officer, who, according to multiple sources, will step down Friday.
TSN, Hockey Canada’s long-time broadcast partner, first reported the news Thursday afternoon and officials from Hockey Canada confirmed there will be an early-afternoon press conference in Toronto Friday to address staffing matters.
Nicholson is 60, and under his watch, Canada is coming off back-to-back Olympic gold medals in men’s and women’s hockey. If the plan is to leave while on top of the international game, he will do so.
Nicholson is an International Ice Hockey Federation vice-president, and would eventually be in line to replace current president Rene Fasel when he steps down, something that could happen sooner or later. Fasel hinted at that possibility during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
But Nicholson has also been linked in the past to a possible front-office position with the Calgary Flames, and would likely receive overtures from several NHL teams if he was ready to make the jump. Nicholson played his minor hockey in Penticton, but then attended Providence College, where he played for Lou Lamoriello, the long-time GM of the New Jersey Devils. At Providence, Nicholson was teammates with, among others, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson. Burke is now the director of hockey operations for the Flames, so there would be a natural connection there.
If Hockey Canada decides to stay inside the organization for a replacement, the leading candidate would be chief operating officer Scott Smith, a 17-year veteran of the organization.
Nicholson was previously the senior vice-president of the Canadian Hockey Association from 1992 to 1998, and vice-president of programs with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from 1990 to 1991.
Before that, he was technical director with the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association from 1979 to 1989. He was inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, and will be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame later this year.
Nicholson, who has been president and COO since June of 1998, oversaw all hockey development programs, men’s and women’s, nationally and internationally.
Though a non-profit, Hockey Canada has been massively successful financially under Nicholson’s watch, as rights fees for properties such as the men’s under-20 junior championships – aka the world juniors – became increasingly lucrative.
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