How to Become a Hockey Referee
So you want to sport the stripes—you want to master and enforce the rules of hockey, learn to help control the flow of games, and make positive experiences for hockey players... you've decided to be a hockey referee.
The first step in the United States is to register with USA Hockey, the sanctioned, governing organization that certifies hockey referees and serves as the foundation for organized team hockey in the country. The process is easy to begin—register
at usahockeyregistration.com. Our friends north of the border can register in their country's similar organization, hockeycanada.ca.
After this first step is complete and you're a registered member of USA Hockey, you'll follow the organization's training steps. First, you'll receive an email confirming your registration—and more importantly, you'll receive a copy of USA
Hockey Playing Official Rules and Casebook. This is your textbook, which will help you with the next required step of referee training: The Open Book Exam.
Okay, maybe you don't like the sound of "exam." Not so fast—this is a test of hockey knowledge at your own pace. You complete the online exam when you're ready, and send in the answers when you're sure you've done
However, some in-person training is still required: you'll have to attend an In-Class Seminar. You can find one in your area at the USA Hockey website. Most seminars are held from August to November and attendance
is mandatory if you want to be a referee, so it's not a bad idea to find one you can attend when you begin the online USA Hockey registration process, and plan your schedule accordingly.
Follow these steps, and you can wear the zebra stripes—that is, the official hockey referee jersey or sweater. Kidding aside, when you complete these steps, you're on your way to receiving the USA Hockey Officiating Card and Sweater Crest,
after which you can start officiating games.
SafeSport Training for Hockey Referees
Oh, one other step: If you're older than 18, you'll also need to participate in the United States Olympic Committee SafeSport training program. This is online training and education for coaches, officials, and key volunteers in detecting and preventing
detrimental behavior (hazing or abuse) away from games. Once completed, the training certification is good for two years. This training must be completed in addition to your USA Hockey Local Affiliate Background Checks. Use the SafeSport link under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.
Look for Hockey Referee Clinics
Also check USAHockey.com for referee clinics in your area—individual states (or provinces) or organizations representing geographic areas may hold hockey referee clinics, and most do this in cooperation
with USA Hockey or Hockey Canada.
You're on your way to a career as a hockey referee, or you can go through the Hockey Canada process; learn more at hockeycanada.ca. Having experience refereeing hockey games at all levels is key if
you're interested in moving into professional hockey work—which can be rewarding in the good feelings you'll get, and in your wallet.
How Much Do Hockey Refs Make?
Generally, amateur officials are independent contractors paid by the game—salary estimates are about $20 to $25 an hour. And you get the satisfaction of participating in games and helping ice hockey, the sport you love.
If you shoot for refereeing in the hockey big leagues, the NHL, you can have a pretty good career at a salary of more than $100,000, ranging to more than $200,000. These are estimates, as the NHL doesn't publish referee salary numbers. Hockey linesmen
make a little less than that. During games, four officials are on the ice—two referees and two linesmen. The referees wear an orange armband, the linesmen do not.
NHL Referee Training
A good way for younger players (ages 17 to 21 with Midget, AA, Junior, or higher hockey experience) to get started is to participate in an NHL Officiating Exposure Combine, where potential officials are found. Be ready, though—officiating
is physically demanding work and you'll need to be in top physical condition. This event usually is held in summer; in August of 2017 it was in Buffalo, New York. Check out the Amateur Exposure Combine webpage.
Hockey Referee Equipment
Referees wear hockey skates and helmets (with or without a visor for eye protection), the same as those worn by hockey players. Other equipment includes a whistle (of
course!) either supplied by the league, or you'll have to get your own.
You need to stay protected on the ice during games, so wearing pads on the shins, knees and elbows is common. You'll want to carry the official hockey rulebook(s)
and USA Hockey official's manual, and review these regularly.
Be ready to perform at your top level—you need to keep up with the flow of play so you want to wear the hockey equipment and skates that let you be your best. Need upgrades? Shop at purehockey.com.