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How Much Do NHL Refs Get Paid?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Ever wonder how much NHL officials get paid? Boardroom has all the details on the current NHL referee salary structure.

On-ice officials in the NHL have a fast-paced and demanding job.

A rigorous work schedule, not to mention constant travel and the tiniest room for error in some of the game’s biggest moments. And let’s not forget the physical conditioning it takes to skate up and down the ice for 60+ minutes a game.

But keeping order on the ice, as it turns out, can mean some significant money — especially for veteran officials who’ve made a career out of calling the shots.

A look at the current collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHL Officials’ Association shows officials earn quite the compensation package — one that’s comparable to NBA referees’ salary structure.

So how much money do NHL refs really make? Let’s skate through some of the details.

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NHL Referee Salary Overview

Like most jobs in America, an NHL referee’s salary is based on seniority and performance.

Compensation for NHL officials varies by years of service, as well as position in the officiating crew — referee or linesman.

Here’s a snapshot of the current status of officiating in the NHL, including salary ranges for the regular season and additional compensation for playoff games.

  • The NHL currently has an officiating roster of 35 full-time referees and 34 full-time linesmen.
  • Referees are expected to work at least 73 of the 82 regular season games, while linesmen must work 74 games.
  • Salaries for officials are determined by years of service: referees’ pay scale is from one to 16 years or more, while linemen’s payscale extends to 20+ years.
  • According to the current collective bargaining agreement, referees can earn anywhere between $220,602 (Year 1) to $482,226 (16+ years) for preseason and the regular season, while linemen make between $141,291 (Year 1) and $292,027 (20+ years).
  • Twenty referees and 20 linemen are selected to officiate in the playoffs.
  • Officials who are selected to officiate in the playoffs can earn additional compensation per round — referees make $27,000 and linesmen make $17,250.
  • The NHL requires a standby referee and standby linemen for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals — standby referees earn $1,000 per game, while linesmen make $650 per game.

Now let’s look at the zebras who’ve earned their stripes — not to mention a substantial payday.

Longest-tenured/Highest-Paid Officials in the NHL ($482,226+):
  • Kevin Pollock – 1,488 career games since 2000
  • Marc Joannette – 1,452 career games since 1999
  • Kelly Sutherland – 1,389 career games since 2000
  • Eric Furlatt – 1,328 career games since 2001
  • Dan O’Rourke – 1,321 career games since 1999
  • Ian Walsh – 1,321 career games since 2000
  • Chris Rooney – 1,316 career games since 2000
  • Chris Lee – 1,267 career games since 2001
  • Wes McCauley – 1,217 career games since 2003
  • Gord Dwyer – 1,125 career games since 2005

A look at past collective bargaining agreements shows NHL officials’ salary has also grown substantially over the years. According to the 2010-14 CBA, the pay range for the 2012-13 season was between $112,187 to $353,649.

With the expiration of the current CBA expected at the end of this year, just how much more can NHL officials expect in the future?

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