A Guide to the Proper Equipment Needed for a Beginner Hockey Official
Written by: Jessica Doiron
The choice to become a hockey official comes with many rewards; in addition to the opportunity to bring order and apply rules to the game, it is beneficial health-wise and comes with a monetary reward.
However, being a hockey official does come with its ups and downs. It’s all about how you and your fellow officials work as a team that will help you to deal with the “downs” of the job.
To be effective, you must always be aware of your surroundings and have quick reflexes to help keep the players and yourself safe. Most of all, you need to make sure you have the proper equipment to help you perform at your best.
First impressions are always key so looking the part is the first step to gaining respect from the players, coaches, fans and even your fellow officials. First up is the officials’ jersey, the classic black and white striped jersey that you see on officials in most sports. Your jersey should always be presentable for each game.
It should not be soiled or wrinkled, and it should fit to size. It is very noticeable when a jersey is oversized or undersized and it makes an official look unbecoming.
Make sure to have the proper patches sewn on to your jersey based on the league(s) for which you are officiating. Patches are typically given to you by the association you belong to.
Hockey officials are required to wear the hockey officials’ black pants. This is where you have a few options and choices. You can either wear a hockey official’s girdle and black pants separately or there is the option to wear black pants that have the built-in girdle.
This decision is based on personal preference and what is more comfortable to each official.
There are also referee-specific shin pads and elbow pads. These are slightly different than players’ pads as they are a little less bulky but provide the same protection. The elbow pads are designed to fit comfortably under the official’s jersey. If your elbow pads do not fit under your jersey, do not size up your jersey, get smaller pads.
Try to avoid brightly coloured elbow pads so they are not visible through the jersey. Same goes for the shin pads, if they do not fit under the official’s black pants then downsize your shin pads. Shin tights are good to put over your shin pads to help keep them in place throughout the game.
These serve the same function as a hockey sock for a player. They are under your officials’ black pants and won’t be visible to anyone else. Some officials choose not to wear shin pads and elbow pads but as a beginner official it is a good idea to get into the habit of wearing them; having the added protection will make you feel more confident as a beginner.
The helmet is the same as what the players wear. Most importantly it must be CSA approved and you should make sure that it has not expired. Yes, hockey helmets do have an expiry date! The hockey helmet must be worn throughout the entire game and serves as protection for wielding sticks, flying pucks and even to protect your head should you fall during a game.
As for the shield, that can be the official’s choice, although some leagues or associations do require a shield to be used. Wearing a shield does give you added protection to the eyes, therefore it is recommended. A half shield is appropriate for officials. A full cage or full shield is not practical as it makes it difficult to blow the whistle in a reasonable amount of time when a call needs to be made.
Make sure the helmet fits you accordingly and that there is not a lot of movement when it is on your head. It should fit snug, and your chin strap should always be tightly attached as well. If your helmet ever becomes damaged in any fashion, it should be replaced immediately. Keeping your head safe is very important in any game whether you are officiating beginner or high-level hockey.
Every official is required to carry a whistle. This is one of your main tools of communication throughout the game. It allows you to notify the players, coaches, fans and your fellow officials of rule violations. You should make sure to use a hockey officials’ whistle as it is different than your typical whistle. Testing your whistle prior to getting on the ice is recommended and you should carry a second whistle in your pocket in case the other one fails during the game. This happens more often than you would think!
There are no specific skates that are required for a hockey official, although it is not recommended to wear goalie skates. You should ensure your skates are sharp and in presentable condition. Your laces do need to be solid white. It is up to each official to choose skates based on personal preference.
Also, make sure to choose a bag that is comfortable for you and that will fit all the above-mentioned equipment. There are several styles and brands to choose from and once again, choice is usually dictated by the personal preference of each official.
Finally, the rulebook. Yes, this is a part of your official equipment. Even though it is not physically part of your visible equipment it is one of the most important pieces. Your rulebook should be reviewed routinely to ensure you know the material sufficiently. If you don’t have a solid understanding of everything in the rulebook then the rest of the equipment isn’t going to help. As much as it helps to present yourself in a professional manner, if you don’t know the rules to back up your calls, the equipment will not help you. Your fellow officials can only back you up to a certain extent.
The previously mentioned equipment are the beginner necessities you need to kickstart your hockey officials’ career. Once you have a feel for what makes you comfortable then you can adjust your equipment as needed. Knowing your rule book, looking professional in your gear, and not to mention being in physical shape are the first steps to achieving your hockey officials’ goals.
Jessica Doiron is a former figure skater who became a hockey player, and eventually an official. She was a member of the OPOE program and some highlights include working the women's CIS finals and Atlantic Female Midget AAA finals in Atlantic Canada.