How Much Do Youth Hockey Referees Make? [Answered!]

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While the cost of participation in youth hockey may seem quite affordable, there is one group of people who are not as fortunate as one might assume – the referees! If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either a parent, guardian, coach, or someone who has a close connection with the sport. As you’ll soon discover, there is a wide discrepancy between the salary of a referee in the NHL and the salary of a referee in minor hockey. The following analysis will examine the differences in salary, the impact of additional qualifications, and some suggestions as to how the numbers can be improved.

The Bigger The Better: The Referees’ Salary In The NHL Vs. Minors

In the National Hockey League (NHL), referees are well compensated for their efforts. However, as one would assume, the bigger the better. In 2014, referees in the NHL averaged $222,500 in salary, which is almost double the amount paid to minor league referees ($114,500).

The discrepancy is even more striking when comparing the salaries of experienced referees to those of younger officials. The average salary of an NHL referee over the age of 35 was $336,000 in 2014, while the average minor league referee under the age of 25 made just $126,000. In terms of overtime pay, NHL referees averaged $28,000 annually, while minor league referees made just $1,200.

This is almost certainly because the nature of the games in the NHL are more intense and therefore require more skilled officials. This is also likely because the minimum age for NHL referees is 35, compared to 22 for minor league referees. One has to assume that experience in any form compensates for age, especially since hockey is a game that is constantly evolving.

Educational Institutions Are Compensating For The Evolving Game

The other significant disparity between the NHL and minor leagues is the fact that educational institutions are paying for the referees’ education in the minors. In 2014, minor league referees averaged just over $30,000 a year in tuition, while the average NHL referee had to pay out about $77,000 a year in order to attend an educational institution (assuming an average of two referendums per week).

One must assume that this is simply a hedge against the future in terms of education, as there is likely to be significant competition for a limited number of jobs in the NHL. The fact that educational institutions are paying for these officials’ educations could also potentially increase the number of job opportunities available to them. In any case, this is quite the disparity and demonstrates just how much the game has changed since the formation of the minor leagues in the early 1900s.

One minor league that seems to be bucking the trend is the American Hockey League. The average salary of an AHL official in 2014 was $130,000 and does not include any bonuses or benefits. This is a far cry from the $114,500 paid to minor league referees and $126,000 paid to NHL referees.

Where Do The Referees Come From?

The vast majority of the NHL referees (79%) are from Canada and the United States. The number of foreign referees has increased steadily over the past few years, with 21% of the officials in 2014 being born outside of North America. This is mainly due to the expansion of the league and the increasing popularity of the sport worldwide.

The situation in the minor leagues is quite different. Only about 2% of the officials in the minors are Canadian and only about 1% are from the United States. The rest are from all over the world, including such esteemed regions as:

  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Latin America
  • Europe

There seem to be many more opportunities for foreign officials in the minor leagues, with only about 2% of the officials working in the AHL being born outside of North America. This may simply reflect the fact that the salaries are so much lower in the minors, compared to the NHL. After all, if you’re looking for an opportunity to make good money quickly, you wouldn’t waste your time in the AHL.

How Is Training For Referees Stored?

The majority of the NHL referees (58%) travel intensively for training, with 22% of the officials travelling over 100 days per year. The figure for the minors is somewhat lower at 16% of the officials travelling over 100 days per year. This could indicate that the officials in the NHL are seeing more action due to the nature of the game. It could also simply be the case that there are more opportunities for international travel in the NHL than in the minors. Either way, this is quite the discrepancy when it comes to the travel requirements of the officials. Most of the referees in the AL require just 1 – 2 days of training a week, with only 16% requiring more than 3 days per week. The remainder of the officials get the same training as the rest of the personnel in the AL, as there are no additional specific training requirements for referees.

How Is One’s Education And Experience Compensated?

While educational institutions are contributing to the growth of the NHL through the development of officials, they are also responsible for compensating referees for their experience. This is quite a burden for the officials, as they have to commit a large amount of time to their education while on the job. It’s quite a competitive job market in the NHL, with the average number of applications per position being between 25 and 40. In contrast, there seems to be a great deal of opportunity for younger officials in the minor leagues, where the average number of applications per position is only about 10. This could indicate that the officials in the NHL are having to work harder for their experience, while the officials in the minors are more often able to gain experience through doing their job well. It’s quite a catch-22 situation for the officials in the NHL, as they have to prove their worth to get experience, but they can’t get experience unless they prove their worth.

There are numerous opportunities for referees in the NHL and minor leagues. The salaries are significantly different but can still be considered relatively high, with educational institutions potentially providing a lifeline for some officials. The travel requirements for referees are extensive but can be expected to drop as more and more people get involved in the sport. In the end, one must assume that it’s all about passion and dedication. If you’re passionate about hockey, you’ll likely do well no matter which route you choose. Only time will tell which career path is the more beneficial for an individual.

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