TORONTO -- Bob Nicholson has been the architect of some of Canada's greatest hockey moments, including seven Olympic gold medals.

Now the future of Canada's world-class hockey program will be in someone else's hands.

Nicholson announced Friday that he is stepping down as president and CEO of Hockey Canada effective June 1. He has held both positions since 1998 and has presided over a highly successful era for Canada in international hockey.

Nicholson has been involved in amateur hockey since 1979, when he was hired by current American Hockey League president and CEO Dave Andrews as technical director with the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association.

"I look back to when Dave Andrews hired me in 1979, that's 35 years ago," Nicholson said at a news conference Friday. "I think its time."

Nicholson moved on to the national scene in 1990, becoming vice-president of programs with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association for two years and vice-president of the Canadian Hockey Association of six years before taking the reins at Hockey Canada.

Under his watch Canada has won 44 gold medals in international competition, the most recent being men's wand women's Olympic titles at the Sochi Games.

"My legacy is only going to be about how good Hockey Canada is when I finish, and I know it's going to be great," Nicholson said, fighting back tears. "Thanks to all the Canadians for allowing me to do this job."

Nicholson pointed to one area where he feels Hockey Canada still has work to do.

"To new Canadians, we've got to make sure new kids play this game," he said. "It's going to be a huge challenge for everyone. We have to do it and we have to make sure it's right."

Nicholson said he will stay on as vice-president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, a position he has held since Sept. 25, 2012.

Hockey Canada said its board of directors will "establish a process and timeline for the naming of a new president and CEO over the coming months."