Referee Wes McCauley is detested by many factions of the Toronto Maple Leafs fan base and, once again, he emerged as a controversial figure Thursday night.
Near the end of the first period, Bruins captain Brad Marchand and Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren got tangled up in a foot race near the boards before Liljegren crashed awkwardly and immediately left the game and did not return. Marchand wasn’t penalized for the incident.
Although Marchand is one of the NHL’s best forwards, he’s earned a reputation as a pest and many fans believe he should face a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for a potential slew-foot on the play.
We’ll let you be the judge:
Here's the Brad Marchand play on Timothy Liljegren pic.twitter.com/8Kuu1QL3Ck
— Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) November 3, 2023
Marchand would then get into a chirping match with Maple Leafs forward Ryan Reaves, but nothing further came of their interaction.
Why is McCauley public enemy No. 1 for many Leafs fans? McCauley refereed Game 1 of the Maple Leafs-Lightning first-round series last spring, where then-Leafs forward Michael Bunting earned a three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak.
Prior to the Bunting-Cernak incident, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was fined $25,000 for demeaning conduct towards an official, or in simple terms, a fine for berating McCauley during a late December game against the St. Louis Blues.
McCauley’s brother-in-law is David Frost, a man who abused Keefe earlier in his career. Keefe testified against Frost in court. We are not going to correlate the relationship between both parties given the serious nature of Frost’s abuse but it is worth noting as a statement of fact.
“Officials don't have any impact on the game and it's not my focus but Wes has treated me like a true professional the whole time I've been in this league and I've been very appreciative of that,” Keefe said in May.
Some also believe the Maple Leafs are doomed in games McCauley has officiated, given a number of unfortunate results that went against them when he called the game, but there’s little to suggest that he’s been an outright harbinger of doom — spurious correlation does exist here.
We’ll leave any supplementary discipline up to the NHL Department of Player Safety and let you, our fine reader, be the judge on this one.