UPDATED:  You can now sign up for the NHL Exposure Combine, which takes place August 15-17 in Buffalo. They’ll give you a roof and keep you fed as long as you can get there and back.  You don’t even need to have experience with a whistle: “No officiating experience is required, good hockey sense is welcomed.”

If you’ve ever dreamed of pulling on the zebra stripes…

If intending to blow your whistle – but not actually blowing your whistle – has ever crossed your mind…

If being the target of verbal abuse by tens of thousands of beer-fueled, blood-crazed manics sounds like a good night at the office…

Well, we might have an opportunity for you.

NHL Exposure Combine - Referees Wanted

From TSN’s Darren Dreger:

[The NHL is] calling it the NHL Exposure Combine and the belief is that they’re hoping to bring in upwards of 60 high-level prospects. They’re going to collect these, literally, from around the world, but yes, they will send invites to certain universities and NCAA colleges for those graduating hockey players who perhaps want to pursue a career as an NHL on-ice official.

They’ll hold the combine in August in Buffalo. There will be considerable physical testing but it’s all part of trying to expand the search and every other year, they’ll do an amateur version.


Adam Proteau at The Hockey News wants the league to go one step further and – brilliantly – turn the sessions into a reality show:

It would be great for the game and for fans to see exactly how an official is trained and how difficult – how impossible – it is to get every on-ice call correct. Although the officiating world is a tight-knit group that doesn’t seek out publicity, the humanizing effect a TV show would have on officials would only help our understanding of and appreciation for it. And it would lead us to where many people think we should already be: an NHL that acknowledges the game is simply too fast to officiate with the naked eye and welcomes more assistance from video replay.

He’s right.  It’d be a great opportunity for everyone.  It’d also make for some great pre-season content on NHL Network.  (Anyone up for a repeat viewing of Oil Change?)

The league might find their officiating version of Kelly Clarkson (or Chris Daughtry… or Clay Aiken).   High-level officials will be motivated to improve their game just by knowing they’ll have an opportunity to participate.  The added visibility around referees will draw in more potential officials, bolstering the zebra pipeline.   The fans, they’d get a better feel for what goes into officiating a National Hockey League game.  It’s a win-win all around.

So, where do we sign up?     [Editor’s note: Right here – NHL Exposure Combine]

Originally published March 25, 2014