The end of an era as he steps down as president and CEO

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If you had to encapsulate the 95th Hockey Canada annual general meeting in a phrase it would be “fresh starts and goodbyes.”

New developments that came out of the May 29-31 meetings at the Westin Hotel included a new governance model, an initiative to get more kids playing Canada’s favourite game and plans to kick off a new century of Hockey Canada.

But truly this weekend was about saying goodbye to outgoing Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson.

Nicholson started in this position of president and CEO back in 1998. He felt this was a perfect time to depart from this job.

“The timing is right,” Nicholson said in an interview with the Calgary Journal. “I feel really good about the decision. Hockey Canada is in great shape.

“I cannot say thank you enough to the Hockey Canada staff, volunteers, players, coaches, officials and parents who have made these last 16 years so memorable.”

“We thank Bob for his tireless efforts to improve the game,” said Jim Hornell, chair of the Hockey Canada board of directors. “There will be another president and CEO, but there will not be another Bob Nicholson.”

BobNicholsonPoseBob Nicholson posing with Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Darren Cossar and Hockey Nova Scotia’s president Randy Pulsifer on May 31 at the Westin Hotel.

Photo by Paulina LiwskiNicholson certainly has left a rich mark on Canadian hockey during his tenure at Hockey Canada. Under his leadership the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team ended its 50-year gold medal drought in 2002, and then went on to capture two additional gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.

The women’s Olympic team won an unprecedented four straight gold medals since Nicholson became associated with Hockey Canada

The Canadian U20 (World Juniors) team has collected 13 medals (five gold, six silver, three bronze) under his watch, including a streak of five straight gold medals between 2005 and 2009.

Nicholson has also helped shepherd in new safety regulations for minor hockey associations throughout Canada, including last year’s decision to ban bodychecking in peewee hockey.

Hockey Canada also grew immensely in scale under Nicholson.

“When I started we had about 20 people on staff, and we have 127 staff today,” says Nicholson.

“It’s grown as a business. The players are so much better. Women’s hockey has developed and so has the men’s game. And it has to continue to develop because so many different countries are doing a good job in the game.”

The next Hockey Canada president and CEO will be named at some point later this summer.

New governance structure

In order to be in sync with the Canadian government’s new Not-For-Profit Corporations Act, Hockey Canada members approved a new governance model, which will see the number of Hockey Canada Board of Directors slashed down to nine from 26.

Additionally, Hockey Canada decreased its standing committee membership from 26 to eight. These committees will still meet twice a year.

Hockey Canada and Bauer team up

MaryKayMary-Kay Messier addressing attendees at the 95th Hockey Canada AGM meeting on May 31 at the Westin Hotel.

Photo by Paulina LiwskiBauer introduced a brand new initiative called “The Big Assist” program that would aims to get more kids to playing hockey.

“Ninety per cent of kids in Canada are not playing hockey and that encouraged me to do some more research to find out why,” says Mary-Kay Messier, the director of brand initiatives for Bauer Hockey.

Some of the reasons kids aren’t playing hockey, according to Messier, are that it is too expensive, it takes too much time, it is too dangerous and it is not fun enough.

“We at Bauer were inspired to bring kids to hockey because the sport has a lot to offer in terms of building community and teaching life lessons,” says Messier.

After a successful pilot project, which saw 176 families, introduced to hockey at the conclusion of a six-week on-ice training camp. Bauer is rolling out a national program, which will see the company engage 30 minor hockey associations across Canada.

This six-week program will see boys and girls between the ages of six to 10 not enrolled in hockey partaking in on-ice and off-ice sessions.

The program will launch in October.

Hockey Canada centennial plans

Hockey Canada also unveiled plans for its upcoming 100th anniversary celebration this year.

The following are some of the initiatives Hockey Canada will put forward to celebrate this milestone:

  • A 330-day coast-to-coast tour which will see Hockey Canada visit over 100 communities. The tour starts July 1 in Ottawa and wraps up on May 31, 2015 (location yet to be determined)
  • A Dec. 4 gala in Ottawa to mark the official 100th anniversary
  • A commemorative book and coin will be released to mark the special occasion.
  • A new centennial jersey, which will be worn by Team Canada in major international competitions, 

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