Do hockey refs wear pads? (Answered!)

hockey referee pads

Hockey is a fast-paced, high intensity sport. The job of a hockey referee is far more dangerous than being a referee in virtually any other sport.

So the question is, do hockey referees wear pads to keep themselves safe on the ice?

Yes. It is mandatory for referees in hockey to wear padding if they are working games above the U13 age group. Hockey refs wear shin pads, protective girdles, padded pants, padded shirts, jockstrap and elbow pads.

Equipment hockey referee’s use

Being a referee in hockey requires a little more than just throwing on the striped jersey and a pair of skates. I’ll admit, while researching for this post, I was blown away by the equipment used by hockey officials.

The following list is equipment hockey refs should have on them during a game:

  1. Helmet with a visor
  2. Skates
  3. Jersey
  4. Jockstrap
  5. Protective girdle
  6. Padded pants
  7. Padded undershirt
  8. Elbow pads
  9. Shin pads
  10. Whistle
  11. Notepad (optional)

Helmet with a visor

This goes without saying, but all hockey referees are required to wear a helmet. USA hockey also mandates that all officials wear a visor with their helmet.


Just like the players on the ice, referees require skates to keep up with the play up and down the ice.

You would be surprised just how good some officials are at skating, it’s no surprise seeing as many of them have played the game at one stage or another.


The famous pin striped jersey. All officials on the ice need one.

A good majority of hockey officials wear a CCM Pro 150 Hockey linesman jersey. There is a slight difference between the jersey a linesman and a referee wear.

The referee must wear special arm bands so they are easily distinguishable from the other officials. CCM also offers a line of snap on arm bands for referees.


You have to protect the family jewels.

A jockstrap is a necessity in a sport where the puck can fly upwards of 90 mph. Could you imagine getting hit by one of those without proper protection?


Protective girdle

Unlike hockey players, the officials don’t wear special hockey pants. Instead, they wear protective girdles that given them some needed padding under their mandated black pants.

I imagine these girdles have saved an official from a charlie horse or two.

Padded pants

The pants officials wear are different from those of players.

Officials aren’t required to wear padded pants, and they aren’t really recommended for people who are just dipping their toes in the hockey officiating pool and are unsure if it’s for them or not.

This is because a good pair of padded officiating pants can cost upwards of $200. Are they worth the money? If you are planning on getting a lot of use out of them, absolutely!

They will take the string out of getting hit with an errant puck or stick.

Most refs in lower levels of competition just opt to wear a normal pair of black pants without the padding.

Padded undershirt

Hockey refs don’t wear shoulder pads, they are far too bulky and would only slow them down.

Instead, they wear padded undershirts which provide ample padding to protect against pucks but also give them the mobility to get out of the way quickly.

Both CCM and Bauer offer a line of protective undershirts for hockey officials.

Elbow pads

The elbow pads worn by a linesman and referees in hockey are a thinner, more streamlined version of those that hockey players wear.

They don’t get into much physical contact throughout the course of the game, so they don’t need the extra padding.

Elbow pads are mainly used to protect their elbows in case they fall.

Shin pads

If you’ve ever played hockey or been on the ice during a game, you know how beat up your shins would get if you weren’t wearing shin pads.

The same goes for officials, on a nightly basis the amount of pucks that hit the legs of officials while trying to jump out of the way of the play would certainly add up.

To prevent the need for ice baths after every game, officials will wear shin pads.


Of course, you can’t be a referee or a linesman without a whistle.

Whistles are used to blow the play dead as well as prepare the players on the ice for the next drop of the puck.

Just like players nerd out about different gear like their sticks, refs will nerd out about the kind of whistles they use.

The two main whistles officiating crews use are the acme thunder, which is the most popular, and the fox 40.


And finally, the notepad. Notepads are used to keep track of things throughout the game. Like penalty minutes, picking players out of a scrum to give penalties etc.

Notepads are totally optional and some companies even make custom notepads for hockey refs.

Check out this video to learn more about the equipment hockey referees wear.