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Understanding Ice Hockey Referee Equipment

As with most team sports, ice hockey officials must navigate the playing surface and enforce the rules of the game. Despite avoiding most of the action of an ice hockey game, merely being on the ice can be dangerous. Because of this, there’s a lot of protective equipment that ice hockey refs must wear. This guide outlines every piece of equipment ice hockey officials need.

Comfort versus Performance

When an ice hockey player purchases equipment, his primary concern will likely be performance. He will want the gear that allows him to play his best. Referees, on the other hand, should have slightly different criteria: Comfort and protection.

Treat New Gear with Respect

Open skating sessions help you get a feel for your new gear and start the break-in process. This way, once you’re out there refereeing, you can focus less on your gear and more on the game.

Unlike hockey players who only have 30-90 second shifts, officials are on the ice for the entire game. When selecting gear, comfort should be a ref’s primary concern. Staying comfortable throughout the course of a game will better allow the ref to do his job: Enforce the rules of the game.

Protective Equipment

Protection comes second to comfort — ice hockey refs won’t have to worry much about bodily contact (it’s rare, but not unheard of). The opposite, however, can be said about the puck. Deflections and poor clearing attempts make everyone on the ice — including the officials — potential victims of puck blows. Because of this, refs need to wear enough equipment to keep them safe.

Here’s a list of player equipment that referees also use:

  • Skates: Skates with good ankle support and comfortable insoles are best.
  • Shin guards: Any senior-level pads will do.
  • Elbow Pads: Not essential, but recommended.
  • Girdle: Something lightweight and comfortable.
  • Shoulder pads: Refs rarely wear full-on player shoulder pads, but foam-padded shirts are common.
  • Helmet: Any helmet will be fine. What sort of visor or cage the official uses is often a personal choice.
  • Jock/Jill: An essential piece, and it’s important that it fits comfortably.

For safety reasons, most leagues have a minimum amount of equipment that they require their officials to wear. Any additional equipment is often up to the individual. As always, refs should check with their league before making any decisions.

Referee-specific Equipment

In addition to wearing some of the same protective equipment as any hockey player, on-ice officials will also need the following unique items:

  • Ref jersey: Long-sleeved shirt with black and white vertical stripes.
  • Ref pants: Black, loose-fitting trousers.
  • Arm band: Generally, referees wear orange or red armbands to differentiate them with linesmen.
  • Whistle: No official is complete without a whistle on a lanyard, or on a fingergrip.

Stay Calm

Ice hockey officials have to enforce the rules — as well as some semblance of order — in a very fast-paced, often chaotic sport. This is the reason comfort is so important when deciding what equipment to wear. Officials have a lot to worry about, and are best served by not having to worry about their equipment or comfort in addition!

The on-ice officials in an ice hockey game use much of the same equipment as the players, with a few stark differences. This guide outlines all referee equipment.
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