If you are looking to become a hockey ref with USA Hockey, there are a few steps you need to follow in order to receive your crest. Do not expect the process to be quick or easy, but once you go through all of it, it will be well worth it. Reffing is a great way to get extra ice time and earn some extra money while you’re at it. Here are the steps to become a hockey ref.

Click the links below to skip to any of the following sections:

Register at USA Hockey
Background Screen
Online Modules
Classroom Seminar
Open Book Exam

Register at USA Hockey

The first step to becoming a rule is to register yourself at USA Hockey’s website. If you are already a USA Hockey player or coach, this step will be familiar to you.

Click “Become a Member” and pay the fee. You will receive a USA Hockey Referee Number and member registration, and within a few days you will receive the USA Hockey Playing Rules & Casebook in the mail.

I would recommend starting to flip through the book and learning as much as you can.


The second step is to sign up for Safesport and complete the courses. U.S. Center for SafeSport training program, which will teach members “detecting and preventing detrimental behavior (hazing, abuse, etc.) on and off the playing surface,” according to USA Hockey.

You will also need to be re-certified in this each year.

Background Screen

All officials who are 18 years and older will also need to complete a background screen, which you can do through USA Hockey. These background screens will be valid for two years.

Online Modules

If you are brand new as a USA Hockey, there are plenty of online modules that will help you learn more about everything to do with being a hockey official: position, rules, etiquette, etc.

Becoming a hockey referee: Things to know about reffing your first game

The USA Hockey Officials website currently says you do not need to take the online modules as a level 1 because it will be incorporated into your classroom education. But I would recommend taking as many as you can anyways, because it’s such important information and you can do it at your own pace.

If you are a level 2, 3, or 4, you will be required to take online modules each year.

Classroom Seminar

To become a Level 1 USA Hockey Official, you will be required to take a classroom seminar. To find one near you, you can go to USA Hockey’s website and search the Classroom Seminar page of the Officials section.

Even though you have already registered as a USA Hockey Official, you will also need to create a USA Hockey Courses System profile to be able to search for a course. The classroom seminar will be mainly in a classroom, but you may also see some ice time to learn some of the skills while you’re actually on the ice.

When signing up for Level 1, you are likely going to have a lot of options for classroom seminars near you. As you work your way up (to Level 2, 3, and 4) they will become scarce and you may need to travel.

Because USA Hockey Officials membership resets on December 1 each year, you will see the majority of seminars taking place between May and November.

Open Book Exam

When you feel comfortable about all the studying you have done, you are ready to take your open book exam. You will have two chances to take the exam, so I would recommend studying beforehand and then taking advantage of the open book nature of the exam and going through your rules book to find each answer. It will also help you learn the best ways to search the book in a short amount of time.

When I took my exam, a lot of people were taking their exam before the classroom seminar, but I chose to take mine after I had completed my classroom seminar because I wanted to learn as much as I could before my exam. But I was also surprised with how much I learn from the exam itself.

Your local ref association will be your best resource in helping you navigate this system. At first it feels very overwhelming, but it’s a fairly simple process and you can get your crest and begin earning some money very quickly.

If you want to learn more about the things I learned after this process, during my first few ref assignments, you can read that story here.


Becoming a hockey ref requires some investment. Not only is there a membership fee to join and begin your training but the clothing will also require an initial investment. I will write a separate article about the clothing needed, but be prepared to purchase new pants, helmet, sweater, whistle, and padding.

To learn more about becoming a hockey official with USA Hockey, find all the details here.

Becoming a hockey referee is not a quick or easy process, but it can be a fun endeavor. I have found I am learning more about hockey than I ever have, and I am getting so much extra ice time that my skating is improving much more quickly than it ever has before. If you have the time, I would absolutely recommend learning how to become a hockey referee.




Here are some products I like to use as a ref:

Helmet: For your reffing helmet, you will need a half shield – and in most cases, it means you will need to buy a helmet and shield separately. Here are some links to both:
– Helmet: https://bit.ly/3OhDaDg
– Half Shields: https://bit.ly/43B0ksF
Ref Sweater: https://bit.ly/3NZHzcZ
Ref Pants: https://bit.ly/3XXJ3bX
Whistle (this is the whistle I like best): https://bit.ly/43wIur0
Padded Leggings: https://bit.ly/3JZaPPG
Padded Shirt: https://bit.ly/46WEW43
Ref Elbow Pads: https://bit.ly/3DgnNEO
Ref Shin Guards (made specifically to go under your ref pants): https://bit.ly/44s649r
Shin Tights: https://bit.ly/3XXxodd
Skates (you can use the same skates you use for playing hockey – but you do need to have clean white laces): https://bit.ly/3Dg0v1Y


Hockey Bag (I couldn’t find the exact ref bag I use, but this one is close — you can stick with a fairly small bag since you don’t have as much stuff as you will for playing hockey): https://bit.ly/46WeZ4T
Hockey Tape: https://bit.ly/46Ogl1q (Amazon) or https://bit.ly/3q0ORVA (PureHockey)
Hockey Laces: https://bit.ly/3DfVoPf (Amazon) or https://bit.ly/3pRUG7Y (Pure Hockey)
Hockey Pucks: https://bit.ly/44sg56v (Amazon) or https://bit.ly/43pH15K (PureHockey)
Skate Guards: https://bit.ly/3Dby7hD
Stick Wax: https://bit.ly/46Ig8g6
Hockey Screw Driver Repair Kit (always good to have in an emergency!): https://bit.ly/3XPkRsx