Referee Wes McCauley will be on the ice for Game 3 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. McCauley, one of the league’s more popular officials, has drawn Keefe’s ire in the past – as well as prompted some online speculation from Leafs fans.
Keefe addressed concerns with officating – specifically Wes McCauley – prior to Sunday’s Game 3:
“The only way I would answer that is just to say that officials don’t have any impact on the game. It’s not my focus,” said Keefe. “But Wes has treated me like a true professional the whole time that I’ve been in this league and I’ve been very appreciative of that.”
Sheldon Keefe on his relationship with referee Wes McCauley. pic.twitter.com/2ftCcOeaxn
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 7, 2023
The Maple Leafs went 5-0-1 during the regular season under McCauley. Of greater concern to Toronto fans is their playoff record under #4. The Maple Leafs are winless all-time – 0-8 – in the postseason when McCauley’s on the ice.
This record isn’t necessarily about McCauley’s influence as much as it may be his scheduling for big games. As one of the league’s top officials, he’s often called in for a Game 7 — an area in which the Leafs have not had a great deal of success in recent years.
Here’s the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff record (all-time) under referee Wes McCauley. #LeafsForever @MapleLeafs pic.twitter.com/6tCbfDyiTB
— Scouting The Refs (@ScoutingTheRefs) April 19, 2023
The veteran official also reportedly received threats after he officiated Toronto’s Game 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round
McCauley and Keefe have crossed paths before. Earlier this season, Keefe was fined $25,000 for ‘demeaning conduct directed at the officials’ after a December game against the St. Louis Blues which was officiated by McCauley and Brian Pochmara.
There’s also an alleged family tie prompting fan theories and further speculation. From The Star:
McCauley’s brother-in-law is disgraced coach and former agent David Frost, with whom Keefe has long ago cut ties. Frost now uses the McCauley surname. It should be noted Bridget McCauley is believed to be largely estranged from the family.
The NHL has not made any changes to the officiating as s result of the perceived issues.
“Wes was assigned to officiate tonight’s game in the normal course,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Star. “He’s consistently ranked among the highest performing officials in the game. We see no need or reason to alter our normal scheduling practices in response to social media ‘chatter’ — nor would it be fair to our teams to do so.”
Dan O’Rourke will be the other referee.