My Experience As a Hockey Referee


I played hockey for seven years. My dad was also a high school hockey player, and he coached some of the teams that I played on. I quit recently because I wanted to focus on school, but I still really liked the sport, and when the time came for me to get a job, I at first did not even consider being a referee. However, after realizing that I could start refereeing when I turned 15, I decided that I would give it a try. Overall, the experience has been very positive.

It is fairly easy to become a referee, and I genuinely believe that the hardest part is learning how to skate. Other than that, you have to take an online test and go to a class to go over the material in person. You do also have to buy a small amount of referee gear, such as a whistle and the attire, but if you already play hockey, chances are that you already have the rest of the necessary equipment. Of course, the material is easier to grasp if you have played hockey before, but there really is not that much to know. The class was fairly long, but it was very important, and I learned a lot of important things from attending. You also have to continue to attend for some years after the first class in order to officiate in the following season. Even though it may seem tedious, it is necessary and I highly recommend taking it seriously.

After this class, I was soon assigned to my first game, and I get some of the 8U games because I am too young to referee in the 14U and the 18U games—it is an actual rule that you need to be at least two years older than the people you are refereeing for. I was kind of nervous, because I was kind of getting thrown right into the mix without any introduction, but it went fairly well. The 8U games are only half-ice, and you do not have to call much, because the main goal is to just let them play. Oftentimes, the things that could be penalized are accidents, because they are still fairly new and fall over quite a bit. I personally prefer the 10U and the 12U games, because they are full-ice and a bit more eventful. Regardless, I still enjoy refereeing any game.

One of the main things that referees have to deal with is the backlash from parents and coaches. Sometimes I will have parents yelling at me over a questionable call, or seemingly nothing at all, but I have to just let it go and keep refereeing. I had training recently, and there was someone yelling at me from the penalty box. They said that the person I gave a goal to did not actually score, and I turned around quickly to see what was wrong. However, the Shadow (senior ref who trains the younger referees) turned to me and said to ignore them and keep focusing on the game. Getting used to everything being blamed on you can be pretty tough, but I got used to it quickly. Other than that, and a few minor and perhaps uncommon rules, there really is not that much that is too difficult to understand after a little bit of training.

This is a very good first job for quite a few reasons. As a student, I find myself doing schoolwork and attending school throughout the week, but most of the hockey games are on the weekends. You can also choose your own hours accordingly, and then only get assigned games when you are available. Refereeing also pays surprisingly well, and you get paid different amounts of money based on the age group you are refereeing for. For the 8U half ice games, I make $35 per game, and for the 10U games, I make $40 per game: each game typically lasts about an hour. However, for 12U I can make $50 per game. This is obviously quite less than the AHL referees who make around $90K per year, and a lot less than the NHL referees who can make around $165K per year, but it is still quite a lot of money for a job that is so flexible and does not take up much time at all.

However, the main reason that I make this much money for refereeing hockey is because there are so few refs currently. I have heard about up to 30 games being cancelled in a single weekend because there are no referees. This baffles me because not only is it a flexible and well-paying job, it is really fun to me. After I quit hockey, I still wanted to be a part of the sport, and refereeing is the perfect way to do that. For someone who wants to be a full time referee, this is also a really good way to start out. My dad also refs on the side, and he can customize his hours so that he can ref only when he has time to. Refereeing is the perfect way to be a part of the sport of hockey while also making some good money, and I personally enjoy refereeing in my free time quite a lot. I highly recommend it to hockey fans looking for something to do on the weekend, or anyone really.