Hockey 101 – The Referee and the Linesman – What the Heck are They Doing?

Posted on March 12, 2012 by

The best part of writing this hockey blog for women is when you ask me questions and I actually know the answer! And you have been asking about the Referee and the Linesman. Who are they? What are their jobs? How do they not get punched in the face more often? Well, I’ll answer the last one first. Experience. By the time the Linesman and Referee have made it to the NHL level of officiating, they know what they are doing…even though many may disagree. But before we get to the poor guys who are hit, kicked, punched and yelled at continuously by players, managers and fans, lets learn about what their duties are in the first place.


The Referee and the Linesman are the two officials on the ice and the Referee is the senior official. He supervises the game and is the final say on disputes. Other duties of the Referee include:

  • To drop the puck for a face-off at the start of each period
  • To impose penalties
  • Announce the goals
  • Announce the penalties
  • Oversee the players Uniforms
  • Report details to the Commissioner
  • Start and end the game and the periods.


The Linesman is the junior official on the ice. They usually spend most of their time at the red or blue lines and will call the icing and offsides and in some instances consult with Referees on the penalty calls. Other duties include:

  • The linesman will face off the puck at all times except at the start of each period and following the scoring of a goal.
  • Reporting to the Referee
  • Break up fights
  • Can stop play for certain penalties, interference, etc.

The Referee and Linesman usually grow up playing hockey and will attend a Hockey camp and then work their way up the tier levels. They must be in top shape as they do not play 45 second shifts like the players, but only get a real break in between periods to rest. A Referee or Linesman who can endure all that and act professional when you have angry coaches and players to deal with are the ones who make it to the NHL level.

What’s the pay? This is interesting. Even though hockey players are the least paid than other athletes in football, basketball and baseball, no other officials in any of the four major sport leagues makes more than the ones in the NHL. A starting referee may make $115,000 all the way up to a veteran Referee at $255,000. Kerry Fraser (shown) made the most ever as a referee at $340,000. A Linesmen, on the other hand, starts around $75,000 and up to $175,000. These are the most up to date amounts I could find.

At first I thought, WOW! Not a bad pay! Then I thought about the abuse, the pain, the travel and everything else that you would have to endure to be an NHL official and maybe, just maybe, I have a little more respect for them.

At least until they make a bad call on the Kings!

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