For 45 years, NHL referees have been paid quite handsomely (Puck Treasures)

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Stumbling around recently, I found one of those hidden hockey gems that get my podcasting brother Jeff Marek all hot and bothered: an NHL referee contract from 1967-68.

This contract belonged to the late Vern Buffey, who went on to author a well-received book called “Black & White & Never Right” in 1983. He also once had Boom-Boom Geoffrion throw both his gloves and his stick at him in a 1963 game, which we believe would have clicked well on YouTube.

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What did Buffey make back in 1968, as compared to today?

As you can see, his regular season game salary was $220; adjusted for inflation, that’s $1,489.40 per game today. His Stanley Cup Playoff salary was $500 per game; again, adjusted for inflation – a dollar in 1968 had the same buying power as $6.77 today – that was the equivalent of $3,385 in 2013.

His base salary was $12,500 for the 74-game season. So his annual salary was $84,625, adjusted for inflation, without (we assume) the postseason bonuses and such.

(That per diem does seem perilously low, but keep in mind that road food was probably a burger and a shake.)


How does that compare with today’s zebras? Oh, they're doing much better, thanks.

According to The Richest:

Some people are under the impression that hockey referees do not make a whole lot of money. Those that believe this are wrong. The referees make between $110,000 to $255,000 each year. The linesmen earn between $70,000 to $162,000 per year.

The average pay for a referee is between $115,000 to $255,000 each year. This is an average payment of $1,402 to $2,682 per game.

So just remember: He’s not only screwing your team, but he’s making as much as a CEO in San Diego.

But compared to the players, referees are earning less than minimum wage.


The average NHL player salary in 1970 was $18,000; Buffey was making $12,000 two years earlier as an official. The average player salary in 2011-12 was $2.4 million in the NHL ... so yeah, there's a larger disparity between the players and those officiating them now than in 1968.

(To which we'll provide the cliched answer: No one pays to watch the referees, despite what Kerry Fraser thinks.)

Buffey’s contract can be yours for $27. Signed by Clarence Campbell himself! The guy from the trophy and the conference whose name was too difficult for casual American fans to remember! (tm, Gary Bettman)

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