Fraser: Playoff refereeing is all about the thrill

Kerry Fraser
5/1/2013 2:16:51 PM
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Mr. Fraser,
I was wondering - If the winning team all get Stanley Cup rings and bonuses, do on ice officials get anything for being in the Final?
Thank you for your time and I would love to hear from you. 
Moses Cordeiro
Hi Moses:

While no 'bling' is specifically presented for Stanley Cup Finals selection, the thrill of accomplishment and lifelong memories associated with working the Cup Final remain a lasting reward for Officials who reach this pinnacle in their career.  In the past few years the Officials that work the Finals receive an etched crystal trophy as a memento of the year and series they participated and playoff bonus compensation has increased considerably over recent Collective Bargaining Agreements.

It has been a longstanding tradition that once a Ref or Linesman is selected to work in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time he is presented with a Stanley Cup ring at a Special Awards evening held in September during the Officials training camp. A beautiful star sapphire is cast in a heavy gold setting that displays the NHL crest on one side and a whistle inside the outline of the crest on the other side included with the last name of the Official. The top of the setting encircling the sapphire contains the script National Hockey League. Linesman Darren Gibbs, who did a fine job in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game in Chicago last night, will proudly and most deservingly receive his ring this September.

Officials are also recognized for other career milestones at the training camp awards night. An attractive NHL wrist watch is presented for 10 years of service as a contracted NHL Official. At 15 years of service another ring is received with the same casting as the playoff ring but instead of a star sapphire, 15 diamonds adorn the top face. For many Officials this beautiful ring becomes their Stanley Cup Finals ring that a player would receive even though the value is much less.

Game number milestones are duly honored in a red carpet, pre-game, on ice ceremony with the Officials family at his side. An Eskimo soapstone carving is presented to a Referee once he works 1,000 regular season games and 1,500 as a Linesman. (The disparity in game numbers is as a result of the fact that Referees hired under NHL contract spend as many as five years developing in the AHL while Linesman usually do not serve this apprenticeship but enter the NHL immediately upon being hired.)

When I first signed an NHL Officials contract few Referees had reached the 1,000 game plateau since normal retirement age was 45 years old.  Quite frankly guys didn't look after themselves very well physically and were ready to leave the ice at that age.  The grind of travel and lifestyle took its toll. Longevity is now the objective of every Official who loves his job. I left the ice at 58 years of age with 1,904 regular season games worked in addition to 261 Stanley Cup games and 12 times selected to the Finals.

As a result of this longevity I established a new milestone award as the first Referee to reach 1,500 regular season NHL games. The Linesmen were also previously recognized for reaching 2,000 games so it seemed appropriate that a Referee should be likewise honored at 1,500 games. Don Koharski, Dan Marouelli and Bill McCreary followed me in working 1,500 games. In these on-ice presentations the Official receives a beautiful Tiffany Crystal trophy etched with the award particulars.

I received both my 1,000 (presented by then Asst. Dir. Of Officiating Dave Newell) and 1,500 award (presented by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly) prior to games played in Madison Square Garden. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the guests in both games. I chose the location and visiting team (played between two Original Six teams) along with the members of my Officiating crew to coincide with these milestone games.

Pat Quinn was the coach behind the Leafs bench during my 1,000 game ceremony. Practically everyone in MSG applauded when I was presented the award and players on both benches banged their sticks against the boards.  Linesman Ray Scapinello skated over to the Leafs bench and engaged Coach Quinn. Scamp said to Pat, "Hey Quinner, you're the only person in the building that isn't applauding Fraser for working his 1,000'th game tonight. C'mon clap for him!" The Mighty Quinn gave a twisted smile and a feeble clap as he said tongue in cheek, "Nine Hundred and Ninety Nine too many as far as I'm concerned!"  (Pat invited me to have a beer with him and his staff in the Edmonton coaches' room following my final visit to the Rexall Arena in 2010. He is a great hockey man and someone I have the utmost respect for even though we didn't always see things the same way.)

Upon retirement the Officials are brought back to training camp the following year to be honored by the League and their colleagues at Awards Night. Those that worked at least one Stanley Cup Final are presented with a handsome replica of the Stanley Cup engraved with the year(s) worked and teams that participated. Mine is proudly displayed in our trophy case with the other milestone awards I received.

Now Moses let's follow the money. Under the current compensation package found in the Officials C.B.A. the Referees receive $18,000 and Linesmen $12,000/round they are assigned to work in the playoffs.  For Referees and Linesmen that are selected to work the Stanley Cup Finals that equates to accumulative totals of $72,000.00 or $48,000.00 respectively.

It might be reasonable to suggest those that desire a Stanley Cup Finals ring can afford to purchase one from their hard earned bonus.  The money will at some point disappear but the memories will last forever...

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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