National Hockey League officials don’t earn a salary in the postseason, but they do get a nice bonus for taking part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Referees earn $27,000 per round worked, with linesmen earning $17,250 per round.
That bonus is a flat rate regardless of how many games they actually handle. Officials are limited to working no more than seven games in any one round. This postseason, no official saw action in more than five.
In comparison, an average referee earns between $4,000-5,000 per game in the regular season (based on annual salary), so this bonus is right in line.
Regular season salaries depend on years of service in the NHL. First year officials start at just over $200,000 for referees and $137,000 for linesmen, increasing each year. A 15-year referee would earn $430,000 this season, while a linesman with 15 years of service would draw $228,000.
Every game gets at least one standby official, with two assigned to elimination games and to all games in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final.
Standby referees earn $1,000 for being in the building, with a bump to $2,750 if they actually take the ice. Linesmen get $650 to wait in the wings, jumping to $1,775 for getting into action. If a referee already selected to work that round is on standby, they receive no additional compensation.
In the opening round, the league names officials as standby refs and linesmen. They may also select others to be available on an emergency basis. The requirements get tighter for later rounds:
For the Conference Semi-Finals and Conference Finals, only those officials who had been selected to work in the preceding playoff round may serve as standbys for such playoff round. For the Stanley Cup Final, only those officials who have been selected to work in the Stanley Cup Final may serve as standbys for Stanley Cup Final games.
Playoff Retirement Bonus
Officials also collect a retirement bonus based on playoff games worked over the course of their careers.
Each official shall be entitled to a retirement bonus calculated as follows: (1) referees shall be entitled to a payment of $27,000 USD times the number of playoff games worked in his career divided by sixty (60); and (2) linesmen shall be entitled to a payment of $17,250 USD times the number of playoff games worked in his career divided by sixty (60).
Retired officials get those payouts spread over two years following their retirement.
For a guy like recently-retired Dan O’Halloran (212 playoff games, 10 Stanley Cup Finals, for $95,400) or Tim Peel (90 playoff games for $40,500), that’s a nice perk of the job. Not only do you collect a pension, but a playoff bonus as well.
Even injured officials may pick up postseason payments if they’re not able to work the playoffs.
If an injury is suffered during the regular season either on or after the day on which one half of the games in the season have been played, or, after an official has worked 37 games, whichever occurs first, and such injury prevents the official from participating in the playoffs, such official will be entitled to receive 75% of the playoff fees … based on the number of rounds he worked in the previous season.
That’s based on the official’s mid-year rating, presumably if it was indicative that he would potentially be working the postseason. An injury before midseason to an official with less than six years of playoff experience would result in that official being eligible to earn 50% of their potential playoff fees.
Referee Francis Charron, injured for most of this season, worked last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Based on 75% of four rounds at $27,000, he should be earning $81,000 on a potential playoff payout, even though he’s sidelined with a long-term injury.
For those officials selected to work – and advance – in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it truly is an honor. One, though, that also comes with some financial benefits.