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As a professional sports league, the NHL is known for its high player salaries and multimillion-dollar franchises. But do the referees get in on this big dollar sport? How much do refs make per game? How many games do they referee per season? What’s the yearly salary for NHL referees? Do linesmen and referees make the same amount of money? This article will crunch the numbers on hockey referee salaries.
NHL referees make between $1,000 and $4,000 per game they officiate. Referees can officiate up to three or four games per week, so their annual salary is estimated to fall between $115,000 and $350,000. Linesmen earn less than referees, typically in the range of $100,000 and $250,000. Career longevity and efficiency ratings can influence the rate that referees are paid.
What Do NHL Referees Do?
Employment as a hockey referee is a thankless job. But, fortunately for the refs, they are well paid for their duties.
The referees are responsible for policing the hockey game.
They call penalties, goals, and whistle downplay for stoppages. They also drop the puck for face-offs that begin a period or that follow a goal.
The referees wear the black and white striped sweater with orange armbands around each bicep.
Linesmen are another on-ice hockey official whose duties differ from the referee. They are responsible for policing plays involving the blue lines and red lines, such as offsides and icing.
Linesmen may report penalties to the referees in most leagues. They also drop the puck after offside and icing plays.
The linesmen are also recognizable for wearing the black and white striped sweaters without orange armbands.
All of these duties occur at a very high speed, so NHL referees and linesmen face a difficult task. They are also ridiculed by both teams and the fans, so life as a referee isn’t very easy.
A “good night” for a referee, in fact, is one where they are hardly noticed. This means they’ve done a good job.
Referees are also required to travel frequently to new destinations for games. They aren’t associated with any particular NHL team or arena, so they officiate games all around North America.
How Much Do Refs Make Per Game?
Referee salary estimations suggest that they make between $115,000 and $350,000 per season. Referees who work in the regular rotation will receive a salary of at least $115,000 and above.
These numbers total across the referee’s workload, which usually is not more than 3 or 4 games per week.
For NHL referees, these numbers break down to a per game rate of $1,500 and $4,000. This indicates that refs can officiate up to 73 games per season in their standard schedule.
These numbers have changed over the years and firm current monetary data is difficult to access. The salaries also rise over time, when a referee has accumulated decades of experience in the league.
For example, NHL referee Dan O’Halloran has been a full-time official since 1995. He’s expected to retire after the current 2019-20 NHL season, meaning he was likely one of the highest paid refs, having worked for 25 years.
Read more about referee salaries over on how much refs make per year.
Do NHL Linesmen Make Less Than Referees?
Online sources agree that linesmen do make less than referees.
Their duties are somewhat simpler than that of the referee, so they get paid slightly less.
It’s not a substantial difference, but linesmen typically fall in the range of $100,000 to $250,000.
On a per game rate, NHL linesmen would then make between $1,300 and $3,400.
How Much Do Amateur Referees Get Paid?
As you might expect, amateur referees get paid much less than professional NHL referees.
Referees who officiate youth and recreational hockey leagues get paid between $30 and $75 per game, which usually runs over a 75-minute ice time.
These referees can make their job more worthwhile by officiating multiple games in the same day, however. Amateur hockey typically only employs one referee and one linesman per game, also, which can make the job more difficult.
Professional hockey is obviously a faster game, so they employ two referees and two linesmen per game. At the NHL level, the officials are also expected to intervene in more violent affairs on the ice, too.
How Are NHL Referees Paid in the Playoffs?
NHL players don’t receive their regular salaries during playoff games. Though, they are awarded a lesser bonus that covers each round they play.
Referees and linesmen, however, do receive bonus pay – which can check out at a higher rate than their salary – when they’re selected for additional post-season assignments.
This bonus can pay referees up to nearly $20,000 per playoff round, and over $12,000 for linesmen.
Typically, only the league’s most veteran and best-rated officials get to serve in the playoffs – and this number dwindles as the NHL reaches the Stanley Cup Finals match-up.
Life as a referee comes with acknowledged stresses and difficulties. But at the NHL level, a job as a full-time referee is a very well-paying occupation. Regular referees earn at least $100,000 on the low end, which is a hefty sum considering they only work a dozen or so hours per week for two-thirds of the year. Certainly, it’s a thankless job, but that nice paycheque evens out the downsides of being an NHL on-ice official.