How Much Do Hockey (NHL) Referees Make? More Than You Think

by Simon | Updated On: June 1st, 2022
hockey referee pay

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Every wondered how much money an NHL referee makes? For all that abuse and the high-stress that comes with the job, it must be worth it when payday comes, right?

Well, yes the pay is pretty decent. NHL referees on average make between $165,000 and $360,000 per year, while linesmen make $110,000 to $235,000. While it’s not on the same level as the players they’re overseeing, it’s much higher than it was before 1993 when they went on strike. 

Bear in mind that this is the top level of refereeing, for smaller non-pro leagues referees typically earn $0-50 per game.

NHL Referee Salary

With the average NHL salary between $165,000 and $400,000 per year depending on experience – this works out to about $1,500 to $3,000 per game.

Here is a screenshot of a job posting looking for an NHL referee which includes the pay rate.

Nhl Referee Job Posting

NHL Linesmen Salary

Linesmen stand at the blueline and they are responsible for making calls related to the center and blue lines such as icing and offside.

They also have one other major responsibility – to break up fights between players.

The pay for linesmen is slightly lower but sits at an average of $110,000 to $235,000.


High Pressure

Being an NHL referee is the top level of hockey refereeing and a fiercely competitive field. A difficult high-pressure job, where the refs must make quick decisions in stadiums full of thousands of emotional fans and pent up players.

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Before NHL officials went on strike in 1993, the refs and linesmen made just $50,000 to start, with veterans over 10 years making $80,000.

Accounting or inflation, the pay is significantly higher now – but the job is perhaps more demanding.

With high-speed camera playback, every single decision is scrutinized – meaning inaccurate calls are seen by everyone.

“You don’t know pressure until you’ve stood in the middle of a sold-out arena, filled with screaming fans and NHL superstars, on national TV, all expecting YOU to make the correct decision in the blink of an eye without any slow-motion replay or multiple angles; where no matter the outcome 50% of people will disagree and hate you.” Former NHL Ref 

How to Become an NHL Referee?

Becoming a referee is in the NHL is no easy feat, it requires years of work and dedication to the sport. And even then that might not be enough.

As someone who worked their way up from the very bottom, (freezing cold 6AM peewee games on Saturday mornings), I can tell you firsthand it’s incredibly difficult to get hired by the NHL as a referee.

Former NHL Ref Mathew Wilson

Most referees have played the sport for many years and then decide to switch to refereeing in their spare time or pursuing it as a career as they gain more experience.

Pro level referees are put through rigorous training camps for physical fitness so they can keep up with the play.

However at it’s heart being referees if about knowing the rule book off by heart, and being able to make quick but crucially fair decisions in the heat of the moment.

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Referee Salary vs Players

AT the time of writing the minimum salary for a player in the NHL was $690k while the highest paid player is on $15.9 million.

In the 2017-18 season the highest paid player was Patrick Kane earning $13,800,000 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s currently on an 8-year contract the Blackhawks for a staggering $84million.

Referee Pay in Amateur Leages

In Vancouver BC areas in 2017 this was the standard pay for officials per game. Icetime approximately 2 hours (source).

Referee/Linesman Referee/Linesman
Expense Allowances Expense Allowances
Division 3-Person System 2-Person System
Novice Not applicable $14.00/$14.00
Atom $20.00/$14.00/$14.00 $20.00/$20.00
PeeWee $27.00/$16.00/$16.00 $27.00/$27.00
Bantam $35.00/$25.00/$25.00 $35.00/$35.00
Midget $41.00/$28.00/$28.00 $41.00/$41.00
Female Juvenile $41.00/$28.00/$28.00 $41.00/$41.00
Juvenile $48.00/$32.00/$32.00 $48.00/$48.00

Southern California AHA, minor hockey in the Los Angeles CA area. (All amounts US$.)

Division Total Referee Linesman
ADM $25 an hour per referee
Mite $63.00 $25.00 $19.00
Squirt* $87.00 $35.00 $26.00
PeeWee $96.00 $38.00 $29.00
Bantam $107.00 $45.00 $31.00
Midget $127.00 $51.00 $38.00
PeeWee AA $107.00 $45.00 $31.00
Bantam AA $127.00 $51.00 $38.00
Midget AA $136.00 $56.00 $40.00
PeeWee AAA $124.00 $50.00 $37.00
Bantam AAA $133.00 $55.00 $39.00
Midget AAA $215.00 $85.00 $65.00

Final thoughts

Most amateur referees in small leagues are paid on a per game basis, the pay for which is usually detemined by the local area or asccociation. Pay can vary from $0 to $120 per game.

NHL referees make a lot more, $165,000 and $360,000 per year but have to put many years of work just for a small chance to get to that level of play.

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Simon, the founder of Brave Stick Hockey, started playing hockey in 2003. He launched this website in 2018 to help new hockey players and fans learn more about the game and have more fun while learning.

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