How Much Do NHL Referees Make?

How Much Do NHL Referees Make?

NHL officials are not popular among fans, but they can laugh all the way to the bank.

Refs endure taunts, jeers and more than occasional boos, yet they make far more annually than most fans do.

NHL officials have a difficult job since pro hockey is the fastest team sport in North America. They also have a union which keeps their pay going up.

Overall Salaries For NHL Refs

NHL referees, who call penalties and essentially preside as the game’s judge, make six-figures per season.

The website Scouting the Refs cited the NHL-NHL Officials Association agreement that referees had a maximum salary of $300,000 per regular season as of 2014.

Referees pay started at $165,000 per season, and they also made an additional $18,000 per round worked in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

NHL officials salaries may seem lucrative, but that’s because they’re the best of the best.

Minor-league officials, while well-paid generally, make much less, and amateur officials — the ones who call you beer league or your kid’s 6 a.m. games — can make between 0-$50 per game. So go easy on them.

NHL Linesmen Salaries

Pay for linesmen, whose job it is to break up fights and rule on offsides, icing and other line-related infractions, start at $110,000 and can top out at about $250,000.

They also make $12,000 per postseason round for working in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Pay Per Game

NHL referees work 73 games per season, and linesmen work 75.

Therefore if you do some math, officials make about between $2,500-$5,000 per game.

Refs vs. Players’ Salaries

Officials may seem well-paid, but they are not the players in the multi-billion-dollar industry, which is why their pay pales in comparison to the veteran minimum of $750,000.


NHL officials, as we stated earlier, are covered by a union, and their contracts are collectively bargained.

Therefore officials are eligible for a pension and retirement fund and receive medical, dental, life insurance, career counseling and more.

Officials also receive travel expenses covered and have protections to keep them from working too many games in a certain number of hours.

Pay In 2021

Things have changed for NHL officials over the past seven years, but not drastically.

For starters, the bottom-end for officials salaries remains the same — $165,000 for referees and about $110,000 for linesmen — while the maximum has crept over $400,000 per season.

This job listing from Reddit from two years ago suggests the starting rate is better than reported.

Qualifying for playoff rounds has become more lucrative. According to Scouting the Refs, referees made $25,400 per playoff-round worked in 2021, with linesmen taking home $16,500.

Next season, those totals will bump to $27,000 and $17,250 for linesmen.

Lead image: mark6mauno/Flickr, CC BY 2.0 – adapted by