Golden boy Nicholson has NHL in his future
There will be no need for Hockey Canada to give Bob Nicholson a golden handshake or a gold watch when he officially announces his departure on Friday. Nicholson already has approximately as much gold as Fort Knox.
Under his watch as president and CEO of Hockey Canada, his country has won seven Olympic gold medals (three men, four women), five World championship golds, 12 World Junior golds and 10 World Women’s gold medals. And speaking of gold, he has presided over Hockey Canada becoming a money-making monolith, both in terms of attracting sponsorship money and generating revenues from events. For example, the WJC in Montreal and Toronto could make a profit of up to $30 million, 50 percent of which goes to Hockey Canada.
So what’s next for Nicholson? Well, after taking some well-deserved time off to be with his family and contemplate his future, he will have his choice of NHL team president and CEO jobs. In fact, before Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hired Tim Leiweke, it’s believed the job was offered to Nicholson. He turned it down because at the time, there was speculation that International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel was in the running to become the next president of the International Olympic Committee, which would have left a vacancy at the IIHF that Nicholson would have filled.
A natural fit for Nicholson would be the Vancouver Canucks. He is originally from Penticton, B.C., and the Canucks are in a world of hurt, with GM Mike Gillis saying on Vancouver radio Thursday that he isn’t even certain he’ll survive the firing line this summer. Nicholson would not likely be the GM or run the hockey department, but as the president, would have say over who does and would have access to some impressive talent.
But do not count out two teams that have been reportedly courting Nicholson in recent months – the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres. It’s believed the Capitals have made a real push for Nicholson to run their entire operation and like the Canucks, the Capitals are in desperate need of a reboot. The first order of business would be to determine the future of GM George McPhee, who has had 17 years to build a winner in Washington.
The Sabres are another interesting possibility. They already have a dizzying number of layers in management, but it’s possible they would give Nicholson the keys to the kingdom. This one represents really intriguing possibilities. First of all, there is no way to go but up with the Sabres. And with their stable of young players and high draft picks over the next couple of years, they have a real opportunity to become a legitimate, long-term championship contender.
Wherever Nicholson ends up, it will almost certainly be in the NHL where he’ll try to add a Stanley Cup to his treasure trove of gold.