Looking the Part
The old saying goes: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Officiating should be treated no differently. Whether you’re Lining an 8U game or Reffing Juniors, you should dress professionally.
Hair cut short. Having a good flow is great for players, but officials aren’t players. We get paid to be professionals and we should look like it. Officials should also be clean shaven, or keep facial hair short and cleanly trimmed.
Start with what you carry along with you during games. In your pockets, you should be carrying: an extra whistle, cut up skate laces of varying length to fix holes in the net, and a riot pad. You should also have a small tape measure with you to measure equipment, that can be left at the timekeeper’s bench.
Black helmet w/ clear visor: There are dozens of helmets on the market out there. Find the right balance of comfort and safety. Remember, you may be wearing it for sets of three or four games. The helmet should be plain black without any stickers, except as allowed by your association (USA/Canadian flags, memorial stickers, etc.) Your visor should be clear, not tinted or mirrored.
All-Black skate w/ plain white laces: All-black skates look the most professional, but are becoming harder and harder to find. Obviously, the most important thing is comfort. Keep your skates clean, washing puck marks off your runners. You should replace your laces with plain white laces and replace them as needed. I prefer to at least replace my laces half-way through the season, then at the beginning of the playoffs.
Clean black and white striped sweater(s): Most officials wear CCM branded sweaters, but over the last few years there have been several new companies come into the market. Wear a well-fit sweater (some on the shorter side may need to have them tailored to fit.) They should come approximately down to the waist. CCM Replica sweaters fit smaller, so if you’re a young official just starting out, the replica may be a better fit.
Have your crest(s) affixed for all games. Sew them on if possible; however, for many officials that work multiple leagues, that isn’t feasible. Velcro is a good option for those that use several different crests. You can sew the loop side of white and black velcro strips on the appropriate sweater stripes and use the hook side on the crests.
You have several options when it comes to suiting up as a Linesman or Referee. Most young and newer officials should get a Linesman sweater with the snaps and the appropriate (red/orange) attachable armbands. As officials progress, most prefer to purchase a separate referee sweater with the sewn-in armbands. It’s a more professional look, if you’re willing to spend the extra cash. Some of the newest sweaters being introduced to the market actually have both styles built-in. They are reversible, so you can simply turn the sweater inside-out when you’re switching assignments.
Do not use the new NHL-style sweaters or sweaters with the mesh underarms (unless specifically okayed by your association.) Nameplates and number plates will also be dictated by your association.
Black referee pants: Your referee pants should be hemmed to have the length fit properly. Nothing looks worse than having your pants tucked in the back of your skates. Use tape or shin tights (or a similar product) to hold your shin guards in place. Wearing them around the outside of your tendon guards will keep your pant legs from getting stuck in the back of your skates. Some pants have padding built in, like Stevens brand.
Protective Equipment: Elbow pads, shin guards, and a girdle are recommended at a minimum. Some officials wear the bare necessities while others wear nearly everything a player wears. Wear what makes you comfortable. There is equipment made especially for officials, usually lighter and more streamlined to fit under the referees uniform, but you aren’t limited. Several officials wear lacrosse style elbow pads with either more or less protection than hockey specific pads. One of the newer items on the market are protective shirts for officials. They add some protection to the heart and other areas of the chest and arms, while still fitting underneath the sweater.
Make sure you’re prepared for every possible scenario by having the necessary equipment in your pocket. You never know when your whistle will fail or when a line brawl will break out. Always wear a clean uniform that fits well. With so many different brands of equipment made specifically for referees, you will be sure to find pads that are protective, fit well and are comfortable, and are streamlined to still look good under your officials uniform. Looking the part by dressing professionally on the ice goes a long way towards towards demanding respect from coaches, players, and fellow officials.
Phillip Altchuler is a former WSHL and ACHA referee. Born and raised in Southern California, he began by officiating roller hockey at the age of 16, reffing NARCh and College. A graduate of California State University, Long Beach, Phil graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management Information Systems. Phil hopes to use his experience to help officials better themselves both on and off the ice.