How to Become a Hockey Referee

While all of us have had dreams of playing in the NHL or another professional league, this is often easier said than done. Only a select few ever make it that far, and most of us simply don’t have the skills.

However, if you want to be involved in the game at a high level, but your play on the ice doesn’t measure up, why not consider becoming a referee? Also, being a ref is great for those who are true students of the game, and those who want to ensure players have a good experience.

But how do the refs you see in an NHL game get there? What is the process for becoming an official? Well, that is exactly what this guide is going to cover. Read on to learn more about what goes into becoming a hockey referee.

Register to Become an Official

The first step to becoming a referee is to actually register with your local or national governing body. In the USA this is USA Hockey, and in Canada, it is Hockey Canada. You must be 18 or older to register yourself and must pay a fee to register.

Once registered, you will receive a rule book and be able to take an open book exam to get started. Once you pass this, you will need to attend referee seminars, which are both in the class and on the ice and are crucial to eventually become a ref.

When you finish the rest of the required online education, you are a referee and can begin looking into games and leagues to work with.

Educate Yourself

As briefly mentioned in the last section, a big part of becoming a hockey ref is becoming a master of the rulebook. You need to know the rules in and out, and be able to make the difficult calls when the game is on the line.

It is up to you to uphold the rules of the game, so you need to make sure you are fully capable of doing so. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but your goal is to try and minimize them as much as possible.

Be sure to read through the rulebook in its entirety, and ensure you go back and refresh yourself on certain information every now and then, too.

Work on Your Skating and Fitness

Being a hockey ref can often be just as demanding as being a player. You are skating for an entire game with limited breaks. This requires a certain level of fitness and cardio that many people simply don’t have.

Because of this, you need to ensure you are spending an adequate amount of time in the gym, and are doing all you can to build up your fitness to a level where you can comfortably skate for long periods of time without becoming exhausted.

Also, be sure that you are a great skater. You will need to share the ice with many players, and as such will need to be able to move quickly to get out of the way. Work on skating backward, making quick stops, and changing directions in an instant.

Get the Right Gear

Just like for players, being a hockey ref requires some gear. You will need things like a helmet, some skates, a whistle, and protective gear. In fact, a lot of the gear you will wear will be similar to what a player will have on.

Some of this may be provided by the league you work for, but don’t expect it. Make sure the gear you get is high quality and will last all season long. Also, ensure it is the right size, as you never want to be uncomfortable when trying to referee a game.

Advance Your Career By Honing Your Craft

Once all of this is taken care of, you need to advance your career by putting in work, making a name for yourself, and being a good ref. Over time, you can rise the ranks through effective refereeing and maybe even secure yourself a spot in the pros.

You will need to take more exams and do more training in order to go from a Level 1 ref to a Level 2 ref, and so on. Once you reach Level 4, you can officially serve as a referee for any game.

I hope that this guide has been able to help you learn a little bit more about the process of how to become a hockey referee. It can be a long and difficult journey, but it is a dream job for many people and allows you to be involved in the game you love most.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email:

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