You may be wondering how an American gets certified for the sport of hockey, or how to become a hockey referee within the various leagues prevalent here. The United States has a wide assortment of hockey athletes, college and division levels, and pro teams. USA Youth hockey alone features more than 220,000 players and about 16,000 referees. 

Become a Referee

So how do you become an NHL referee, exactly? Becoming certified as a hockey referee begins with enrolling in a certification course. When it comes to sports in the United States, USA Hockey is a basic venue. You can discover alternatives, including getting certified by your municipal agency, from the local park board, or through crowd-sourced sports like adult leagues.

Certifications through different organizations require different levels of commitment and therefore provide different benefits. As stated, USA Hockey is the largest hockey organization in the world, so getting certified through them will provide a referee with an abundance of games to work on. 

More local certification, like through a park will require less time. However, it will likely provide less freedom for games to work since the league is smaller. Regardless of which organization an aspiring referee may decide to get certified through and work their games, the certification process is very straightforward. 

Officiating Ice Hockey: What Are The Steps?

How to become a hockey referee will vary depending on the organization one is getting certified through. However, there are many similarities between the organizations. The USA hockey certification process is the most extensive one we have found and yet it still allows for aspiring hockey referees to be able to hit the ice for their first games in a matter of days. 

Since USA Hockey is the largest hockey league, their brief certification process is outlined.


1. Create a membership account through their organization

2. Complete an online Safesport Training module 

3. Complete a USA Hockey background screening 

4. Complete online video modules that teach key refereeing skills 

5. Complete un-timed, open-book rules and playbook exam 

6. Attend a local USA Hockey classroom seminar 

Once these steps are completed by an individual, they will receive their USA Hockey referee card and sweater crest, now ruling them an official USA Hockey Referee. 

Officiating Levels In Hockey

Most organizations have a level system that keeps track of how experienced and skilled hockey referees are. This leveling system helps an organization assign specific referees to certain age groups of games based on a referee's capabilities. Hockey officials that fall under the largest hockey governing body, USA Hockey, can obtain different qualification levels. 

USA hockey currently has four different levels of referees, which they use to ensure they are assigning referees with enough experience to certain games. For example, a level three or higher qualification is required for working a high school hockey game, whereas only a level one is required to work a 10u game. 

In most cases, the higher-level games come with more compensation, so a referee should desire to work up the leveling ranks to make their profile available to games that provide higher pay. Regardless of the organization that one is officiating within, leveling up will require in-game experience and further certification training. 

The National Hockey League is the most desirable league for a hockey referee, providing annual compensation as high as $388,000. Most individuals who set out on learning how to become a hockey referee don’t realize the potential, but the above figure is very attainable with hard work and dedication to the craft. 

Interested In Becoming A USA Hockey Certified Referee?

As stated, the process above is one of the more extensive certification processes within hockey referee certifications. The Refr Sports certification process is similar to the one illustrated in this guide. However, we have condensed many of the steps into a single, more straightforward step. 

If you are interested in becoming a certified referee or are a game organizer and need recommendations for referees, reach out to us so we can discuss the best option for you.