Fraser: What do referees do to stay fit and relax?

Kerry Fraser
10/25/2013 12:47:57 PM
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Hello Kerry,

Hope all is well and you're enjoying your retirement. My question to you is what do referees do in between games to stay physically fit? Do you guys travel with personal trainers? Wondering more about a referee's experience between the games travelling and things you did to blow off some steam and de-stress.

Take care,

Shane Armstrong


Without prejudice and to a man, I have to say that NHL referees and linesmen are the most physically fit group of professional officials you will find in any sport. To be perfectly candid, it wasn't always that way. The good news of today however is that the "donut" box has long since been pushed aside and replaced with a much healthier lifestyle along with a personal commitment to fitness; one that is not only mandatory but fully supported by the NHL Officiating Department. At the very least the speed, size and athleticism of the modern-day NHL player demand this commitment from each member of the officiating team.

An excellent income and good standard of living they are able to provide for themselves and their family is also a motivating factor.

While the guys don't travel with a personal trainer, the NHL employs David T. Smith in this capacity. Dave (brother of former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Barry Smith) served as the certified physical therapist and strength/conditioning coach for the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers until he was hired by the NHL to work directly with their officials. Smitty designs a program and schedule for each official to follow throughout the summer months in preparation of a strenuous fitness test they are required to pass on the first day of training camp. A separate program is also provided for maintenance throughout the season and playoffs.

Dave not only monitors their fitness throughout the entire year but is also responsible for injury rehabilitation and obtaining medical clearance for an official to return to active duty. Unlike a hockey team that lives and travels together throughout a season, the fact that a total of 77 members of the NHL officiating team are scattered across North America presents somewhat of a challenge for Smitty. Working from his home base in Buffalo, Dave attends games in that city and Toronto to personally touch base with crews assigned there.

The demands of commercial air travel throughout the season must be properly managed by each official. Typically, an official flies over 150,000 miles per season and can be away from home for more than 20 nights a month. There are no charter flights with meals prepared for an official or any home games, either. Getting the proper rest, diet, fitness and injury management is required of each individual official. Self-discipline is required to meet these challenges.

A typical game-day routine would find the officiating crew assemble for a light breakfast and conversation in the Marriott Hotel concierge lounge between 8am and 9am. They then regroup in the hotel health club for a mid-morning workout consisting of light cardio, stretching and some weight training. On non-game-days, each official will balance his workout intensity with a travel schedule that often includes moving on to a different city for back-to-back games. (Officials are required to book travel that finds them arrive in a city no later than Noon on the day of a game.)

Post-game unwinding takes place after the crew returns to their hotel, unpacks their sweaty equipment to air dry (in their hotel room) and perhaps make a call home to touch base with the day's events. A light meal and a few adult beverages of choice are usually consumed in the hotel bar. If guys have a day off the next day, they might decide to "blow off steam" outside of the hotel. Moderation is always the first and best intention.

Each official will manage his down time depending upon personal interests and how his body feels. Thirty of the best cities in North America are frequented. Some warm-weather destinations are visited in the dead of winter where guys can play golf or catch some sun around the pool to recharge their batteries. Each NHL city or the surrounding area has a unique charm and history if an official takes the time to look around and smell the roses. I found sightseeing an enjoyable way to spend free time; whether in Old Montreal; skating on the Canal in Ottawa; a drive, bike ride or hike in the mountains around Calgary or Denver or Sonoma near Phoenix; the sheer beauty of Vancouver no matter where you look; walking the docks of Marina del Rey or Venice Beach near LA ; day trips to Napa wine country or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco when working a Sharks game; fishing, sailing or golfing on both ocean coasts. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture, Shane, it's crucial to maintaining a high level of fitness and proper time management!

Oh I almost forgot, NHL officials are paid quite handsomely for the abuse they sometimes take. God, I miss all of it.

Have a great weekend everyone and be sure to manage your time wisely.

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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