How to Become a Hockey Referee

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If you want to become a hockey referee, you have several options available.

Who runs hockey referees?

Many hockey leagues are under USA Hockey. You’ll need to register with the USA Hockey Officiating Program and connect with a local USA Hockey supervisor for information about officiating games in your area.

If you’re in Canada, the equivalent to USA Hockey is Hockey Canada.

There are also many local leagues that don’t have a local officiating governing body and hire their own referees directly. You may not need to have a USA Hockey officiating card. Contact your local league or rink for details about hockey games near you.

How does USA Hockey work?

USA Hockey is a national association that oversees many leagues throughout the USA. (Note: Replace USA with Canada, and you have Hockey Canada.)

New officials have to complete the membership registration process and pay an annual membership fee. There are also written tests and skating tests that depend on your level.

USA Hockey officials age 18 and older will also need to complete SafeSport training certification and pass a background check. These steps are for child protection purposes, and the requirements will vary based on your local law.

Most new hockey referees start as Level 1 officials in the lowest youth games and can work up to Level 4. You may also be able to advance to the National Hockey League.

How old do you have to be a hockey referee?

There is no minimum age to register with USA Hockey. However, child labor laws do apply to hockey referees, so paid referees need to meet any minimum age requirements under your local law. Some leagues may also require referees to be a minimum age based on the age of the players and the league’s needs.

Note to parents of potential referees: Hockey is well-known as a pay-to-play sport with crazy parents who routinely abuse referees. Some leagues and officials groups truly want young referees to learn about the game. Others recruit them because they can pay them less and don’t care how they’re treated.

Before allowing your minor child to become a referee, carefully consider how your league operates and exactly who your child will be working with. Treat it just like you would any other job recruiting or sales pitch.

How much do hockey referees make?

Hockey referee pay varies widely based on where you live and the level of game. Fees are usually per game and can range from $20 to $100+.

Most hockey referees pay taxes as independent contractors.

NHL referees start at around $100,000 per year and make up to $400,000 per year. AHL salaries range from $50,000 to $100,000 per year.

Do you have to be a hockey player to be a referee?

It is very difficult to be a successful referee in any sport without having played the game and hockey is no exception. In fact, hockey is one of the few sports where most professional referees were minor league or Division I college players.

In addition to understanding the nuances of the rules and how the game is played, skating skills are also a huge barrier to someone who hasn’t played.

Thanks for reading.

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