Ice Hockey Officials of Northern California
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Getting Started

In order to join CTHOA and officiate for our leagues, you must:
  1. Have been trained and certified as a USA Hockey referee.
  2. Have full referee's equipment.
  3. Get a background check (if you are 18 or over).
  4. Make sure you are insured.
  5. Fill out our CTHOA Registration Form.
Details on these steps are below.

Step One: USA Hockey Training
In order to become a USA Hockey certified referee, you must:
  • Apply for certification. You can do this online at The fee depends on your level of officiating; for first-year officials, it is $35.
  • Attend a USA Hockey Officiating seminar. These seminars are held in August and September each year. They are a full day, with both classroom and on-ice portions. Registration for these seminars is required. Click here to see the schedule and to register.
  • Complete a written test. When you apply for certification (see above), USA Hockey will mail you a rulebook and a short written test. This is an open book test. You complete the test and mail it back.
Once all of these things are successfully completed, USA Hockey will mail you an official crest, to be attached to your referee sweater, and a referee certification card. You are now a certified referee -- but CTHOA won't assign you to work any games until you also register with CTHOA. This is easy and there's no fee; just fill out the CTHOA Registration Form.

There are several things to do while waiting until your seminar date:

  • Work on your skating.

    Even the most experienced officials work to improve their skating. You should think twice about officiating if you are not comfortable skating on rockered hockey skates. (Goalie skates are not acceptable for a referee.) In addition to general skating proficiency, focus on backwards as well as forwards skating, stops and starts, tight turns both directions, and especially being able to skate while looking in any direction and while making signals with your arms.

  • Learn the rules.

    Study the rulebook, and the playing rules handbook. (These can be found in the Rules menu on this site.) Rule knowledge is absolutely essential for an official. (Note: you're probably better off ignoring the league-specific rule exceptions for our local leagues until after you've taken the written test.)

  • Play the game.

    Referees do not have to also be players -- but the better ones are. The more you can understand the mindset of a player, the better official you can be.

  • Get your equipment and insurance (see below).

Step Two: Get Your Equipment
Officials must have the following equipment, at a minimum:
  • black hockey helmet with half-shield visor
  • striped official's sweater with removable orange armbands and nameplate (no pro style sweaters allowed)
  • black official's pants
  • black hockey skates with white laces
  • whistle
Recommended protective equipment includes:
  • padded girdle
  • cup or pelvic protector
  • shin guards and knee pads
  • elbow pads

CTHOA also has a Flea Market for used equipment.

Step Three: Background Check
CTHOA requires all adult (age 18 or older) officials to undergo a background check before receiving game assignments. Click here for details and instructions.

Step Three: Get Your Insurance
CTHOA strongly recommends that you have additional insurance covering you when you officiate. Your current USA Hockey certification does provide you with insurance for games in USA Hockey sanctioned leagues. CTHOA recommends purchasing the additional insurance coverage available through the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). The coverage NASO provides has higher limits than USA Hockey's coverage, and is not restricted to USA Hockey sanctioned league games.

Step Four: Sign Up with CTHOA
When you've taken care of all of these things, and you're ready to start working games for CTHOA, fill out our Registration Form.

Good Luck! We look forward to working with you.

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