NHL referee Wes McCauley is a controversial official in the eyes of Toronto Maple Leafs fans, but it sounds like some devotees took things too far. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reports that McCauley and his family dealt with online threats during the night of the Maple Leafs’ Game 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
During that 7-3 loss, Michael Bunting delivered the check that would prompt a three-game suspension, increasing the bad feelings toward the referee.
Scouting the Refs adds that McCauley’s family was “doxxed” by unnamed Maple Leafs fans, meaning their personal and identifying information was shared online. Those posts were eventually deleted.
Word of these personal threats only added more controversy to McCauley being one of the officials assigned to Sunday’s crucial Game 3 for the Maple Leafs against the Florida Panthers. Back in late December, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe received a $25,000 fine for “demeaning conduct directed at officials.” McCauley was part of that crew.
Before Game 3, Keefe downplayed any issues with McCauley, stating that officials “don’t have any impact on the game” and Keefe thanked McCauley for treating him “like a true professional the whole time” he’s been in the NHL.
Sheldon Keefe on his relationship with referee Wes McCauley. pic.twitter.com/2ftCcOeaxn
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 7, 2023
How much of an impact does McCauley really have on Maple Leafs games? McGran notes Toronto was 5-0-1 in regular-season games with McCauley as part of the officiating crew this season. Scouting the Refs, however, points out the Maple Leafs have lost all nine playoff games McCauley has officiated since 2017, with Sunday's 3-2 overtime defeat being the latest.
— Scouting The Refs (@ScoutingTheRefs) April 19, 2023
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly defended the league’s decision to assign McCauley to Game 3, making an interesting mention of “social media chatter.”
“Wes was assigned to officiate tonight’s game in the normal course,” Daly told McGran. “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.”