How Much Do NHL Referees Travel

In the fast-paced world of professional hockey, referees play a vital role in ensuring fair play and upholding the integrity of the game. However, their responsibilities extend far beyond the ice rink.

As full-time employees of the NHL, these officials embark on an extensive travel schedule, officiating an average of 72 games per year across North America.

This article explores the challenges, benefits, and financial aspects of the rigorous travel demands placed on NHL referees, shedding light on the behind-the-scenes reality of their demanding profession.

NHL Referees’ Full-Time Schedule

NHL referees’ full-time schedule includes officiating an average of 72 games per year. This demanding workload involves extensive travel throughout North America, which can have a significant impact on their personal lives.

With each game taking place in a different city and arena, NHL referees accumulate a considerable amount of travel mileage. They often traverse the US-Canada border, making multiple trips throughout the season. The constant change in time zones can lead to jet lag and fatigue, further affecting their personal well-being.

Additionally, spending significant time away from their families can be challenging for referees. Despite the toll it may take, the opportunity to travel allows referees to experience different cities, cultures, and NHL arenas, creating a rewarding aspect of their profession.

Limited Number of NHL Referees

With only 35 referees employed by the league, the NHL faces the challenge of managing a limited number of officials to officiate its games. This limited number of NHL referees means that each referee has a significant workload throughout the season. They are responsible for officiating an average of 72 games per year, which requires extensive travel to different cities and arenas across North America.

The impact of this travel on referees’ performance cannot be overlooked. Frequent travel can lead to fatigue, jet lag, and disruptions to their personal lives and routines. However, it also presents opportunities for referees to experience different cities, cultures, and NHL arenas.

Despite the challenges, the limited number of NHL referees must adapt and remain flexible to ensure the smooth running of the games.

Pair Assignments for NHL Games

Referees in the NHL are assigned in pairs to officiate games throughout the season, ensuring fair play and adherence to the rules of the game. This pair assignment system allows for consistency and collaboration among referees. The NHL takes into consideration referees’ travel preferences when making these pair assignments. Referees may have specific preferences or requirements for their travel accommodations, such as hotel preferences or flight preferences. The league strives to accommodate these preferences to ensure that referees have a comfortable and convenient travel experience. By taking into account travel preferences, the NHL aims to support referees in their demanding and exhausting travel schedule, allowing them to perform their duties effectively on the ice.

Pair Assignments for NHL Games Travel Preferences
Ensures fair play and adherence to rules Referees’ travel preferences are considered
Consistency and collaboration among referees Specific accommodations requested
Supports referees’ demanding travel schedule Comfortable and convenient travel experience

Extensive Travel Across North America

The rigorous travel schedule of NHL referees includes extensive trips across North America to officiate games in various cities and arenas. This demanding travel can have a significant impact on referees’ personal lives. They may have to spend extended periods away from their families and deal with disrupted routines. Additionally, the constant change in time zones can lead to jet lag and fatigue, affecting their performance on the ice.

To manage these challenges, referees employ strategies such as adjusting sleep schedules, staying hydrated, and practicing good nutrition. They may also use techniques like light therapy and melatonin to regulate their sleep patterns.

Despite the difficulties, referees understand that traveling allows them to experience different cities and cultures while broadening their perspectives. It is a rewarding aspect of their job, albeit one that requires adaptability and resilience.

Demanding and Exhausting Travel Schedule

The demanding and exhausting travel schedule of NHL referees takes a toll on their personal lives and requires them to be constantly adaptable and resilient. Referees’ travel fatigue is a significant challenge they face throughout the season.

They are constantly on the move, traveling to different cities and arenas for each game, which can disrupt their routines and lead to feelings of fatigue and jet lag due to the constant change in time zones. Additionally, managing travel disruptions such as delays or cancellations can further add to the demands of their schedule.

Despite these challenges, referees must remain adaptable and flexible to ensure they arrive at each game on time and ready to officiate. Managing their travel effectively is crucial in maintaining their performance and overall well-being.

NHL’s Travel Accommodations for Referees

NHL referees are provided with comprehensive travel accommodations by the league. Here are three key aspects of the NHL’s travel accommodations for referees:

  1. Hotel Accommodations: The league typically provides referees with hotel accommodations for each game. This ensures that they have a comfortable and convenient place to stay during their travels.
  2. Transportation Coverage: The NHL covers the cost of referees’ flights or other transportation expenses. This relieves referees from the burden of arranging and paying for their own travel.
  3. Preferences and Convenience: Referees may have specific preferences or requirements for their accommodations. The league takes these into consideration to ensure that referees have a travel experience that meets their needs. This attention to detail helps minimize any potential negative impact of travel on referees’ performance.

Challenges of Frequent Travel

Frequent travel presents numerous challenges for NHL referees, impacting their personal lives, routines, and overall well-being.

One major challenge is jet lag management, as referees often cross multiple time zones during their travels. This can lead to fatigue and disrupt their sleep patterns, affecting their performance on the ice.

Additionally, referees must sacrifice valuable family time, as they spend significant periods away from their loved ones due to their travel schedule. This can strain relationships and make it difficult to maintain a work-life balance.

Despite these challenges, referees are professionals who must adapt and remain flexible in order to fulfill their responsibilities. By managing jet lag and making necessary sacrifices, referees are able to maintain their commitment to the game and ensure fair officiating.

Benefits of Traveling for NHL Referees

Traveling for NHL referees offers unique opportunities for personal growth and cultural enrichment. Here are three benefits of travel experiences and their impact on personal life:

  1. Broadened Perspective: By visiting different cities and cultures, referees gain a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives and lifestyles. This exposure allows them to develop a broader worldview, fostering empathy and acceptance.
  2. Enhanced Professional Network: Traveling allows referees to build relationships with other officials and hockey personnel from various backgrounds. These connections can lead to professional growth opportunities, mentorship, and valuable collaborations.
  3. Enriched Personal Life: While frequent travel can disrupt personal routines, it also provides referees with the chance to explore new places, experience different cuisines, and engage in recreational activities. This can lead to personal rejuvenation, stress reduction, and a balanced lifestyle.

Financial Aspects of Being an NHL Referee

Referees in the NHL have the opportunity to earn a substantial income through their officiating duties. NHL referees make between $200,000 to $400,000 per year, with potential earnings of up to $18,000 per series during the playoffs.

Additionally, the league offers a 5-6 month break after the season ends, allowing referees time to recover, spend time with friends and family, and travel for enjoyment. The NHL takes care of many expenses, including travel and food while on the road, which helps alleviate financial burdens. However, referees may still have additional expenses such as paying into the officials union, gym memberships, and physical therapy.

It is worth noting that while the financial compensation is generous, referees in youth, high school, college, and minor hockey may face financial challenges. Balancing the financial aspects of being an NHL referee with their personal lives can be challenging, but the perks of the job, including compensation and time off, contribute to a fulfilling work-life balance.

Path to Becoming an NHL Referee

To become an NHL referee, individuals must undergo rigorous training and obtain licensing through governing hockey bodies, often transitioning from playing the sport themselves. The path to becoming an NHL referee involves several steps and opportunities for advancement. Here are three key aspects of the process:

  1. Training: Aspiring NHL referees must complete comprehensive training programs that cover the rules and mechanics of officiating. This includes classroom instruction, on-ice training, and evaluations to assess their skills and knowledge.
  2. Officiating Experience: Referees gain experience by officiating games at lower levels, such as youth, high school, and college hockey. This allows them to develop their skills, build their knowledge of the game, and work their way up through the officiating ranks.
  3. NHL Officiating Amateur Exposure Combine: The NHL Officiating Amateur Exposure Combine provides an opportunity for former players with officiating potential to fast-track their progress. This program identifies and develops talented individuals, giving them the chance to officiate at higher levels of hockey and ultimately work towards becoming NHL referees.

Financial Challenges in Lower Levels of Officiating

As referees progress through the ranks of officiating, they may encounter significant financial challenges, particularly at lower levels of the sport. Officiating at the youth, high school, college, and minor hockey levels often involves lower pay rates compared to professional leagues like the NHL.

These financial struggles can make it difficult for referees to balance their personal lives and meet their financial obligations. Many lower-level referees have to work additional jobs to supplement their income, which can further complicate their schedules and add to the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance.

Despite these financial challenges, many referees persevere because of their passion for the sport and the desire to progress in their officiating careers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Time Do NHL Referees Typically Spend Away From Their Families Due to Travel?

NHL referees often spend significant time away from their families due to frequent travel. Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, especially with disruptions to routines and the potential for jet lag and fatigue.

How Do NHL Referees Handle Jet Lag and Fatigue From Constant Time Zone Changes?

NHL referees manage jet lag and fatigue from constant time zone changes through various techniques, such as adjusting sleep schedules, staying hydrated, and incorporating light exercise. The impact of travel on referee performance is mitigated by their adaptability and resilience.

What Happens if There Are Travel Delays or Cancellations That Affect a Referee’s Game Assignments?

Travel delays or cancellations can disrupt a referee’s game assignments. Referees may need to be reassigned to different games or reschedule their travel plans. This can be challenging for both the referees and the league.

Do NHL Referees Have Any Say in Their Travel Accommodations or Preferences?

NHL referees have some say in their travel accommodations and preferences. The league provides hotel accommodations and covers transportation costs. Referees may have specific requirements, and the league ensures a comfortable and convenient travel experience.

Are NHL Referees Responsible for Any Additional Expenses During the Season, Besides the Ones Covered by the League?

NHL referees are not responsible for any additional expenses during the season. The league covers the cost of their travel and accommodations. Referees can focus solely on their game assignments without having to worry about financial burdens.


In the fast-paced world of professional hockey, NHL referees face a demanding and exhausting travel schedule as they officiate an average of 72 games per year.

While this rigorous lifestyle can disrupt their personal lives, it also offers the opportunity to explore different cities and cultures.

Despite the challenges, the travel aspect of being an NHL referee provides a rewarding experience, allowing officials to broaden their perspectives and forge connections with fellow officials and hockey personnel.

It truly is a journey of growth and camaraderie.