Why Leafs fans think last night's referee has it in for them

Apr 19 2023, 6:23 pm

The Toronto Maple Leafs — and their fans — aren’t the biggest supporters of referee Wes McCauley.

During last night’s Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, officiated by McCauley, the Leafs were blown out 7-3 on home ice.

Tampa Bay was awarded eight power play opportunities in the contest to Toronto’s four, scoring four separate times with the man advantage.

Down 4-2 in the second period, Toronto’s Michael Bunting was awarded a five-minute major and a match penalty for a hit on Tampa’s Erik Cernak. Cernak didn’t return to the game, and Bunting is facing a possible suspension for the hit, with a hearing scheduled for later today.

As pointed out by Scouting the Refs, Toronto is now 0-8 in playoff games where McCauley is on the officiating crew (though they did go 5-0-1 with McCauley working games this past regular season).

McCauley’s name was trending on Twitter following Game 1 and well into Wednesday.

For fans, it’s obviously a frustrating trend, with the history showing that Toronto isn’t quite successful with McCauley on the ice when it really matters.

But for Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, there’s a darker personal history that dates back with McCauley over two decades.

Keefe is a former client of disgraced hockey agent and junior hockey coach David Frost. He was a witness against him in a 2008 trial for alleged abuse that occurred during Keefe’s junior career in three separate Ontario leagues. (Frost was acquitted of the charges.)

Meanwhile, Frost, who now goes by the name Jim McCauley, is a brother-in-law of Wes McCauley’s, as the referee is married to Frost’s sister.

Back in December 2022, Keefe was fined $25,000 for a rant at McCauley, appearing to yell, “Wake the f*ck up, Wes” during a Leafs’ game against the St. Louis Blues.

Of course, whether there’s an actual unconscious bias from McCauley isn’t clear, but at the very least there’s a clear personal history between the team, referee, and coach.

Game 2 of the series is set for Thursday night, where the Leafs once again host the Lightning for a 7:30 ET puck drop.

The officiating crew for that contest has yet to be announced, although it’s rare that the same referees work consecutive games of a playoff series.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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