Congratulations to the following officials that have been selected by the National Hockey League to work the 2012-13 Stanley Cup Final series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins:
Referees: Wes McCauley, Dan O'Halloran , Chris Rooney, Brad Watson
Linesmen: Shane Heyer, Brian Murphy, Pierre Racicot, Jay Sharrers
The majority of players from both teams and the game officials are no strangers to the excitement and pressures that surround a Cup Final. They have been there before and know what it takes to succeed. One notable exception is referee Wes McCauley, who will appear in the Final for the first time. Inclusion as a member of the 'Final Four' referees and linesmen is a huge accomplishment. Being selected is certainly the pinnacle of every official's career and a signal to the hockey world that they are regarded as the best of the best.
Referee McCauley has had a terrific playoff run by my ratings and certainly deserves his place at the top. His uncanny 'feel' for the game (almost a lost art) allowed for the expected playoff intensity to flourish in each game he called. Most importantly, McCauley demonstrated the courage and good judgment to make the tough call at any point in the game regardless of the score or time. He did not put his whistle away!
Wes McCauley is about to enter uncharted waters. The stakes are higher and the focus of the hockey world intensifies in this final round. I remember it well. No one gets to this level of proficiency without the assistance of coworkers and mentors. The night prior to my first Stanley Cup Final game, I had the good fortune of dining with the best mentor I could have hoped for. John McCauley, then Director of Officiating (Wes McCauley's father) prepared me for what to expect and instilled in me the confidence I needed to succeed.
John McCauley had been a well respected referee in the NHL until his career was cut short from a sucker-punch in the eye by a drunken hockey fan from Kapuskaing, Ontario. The blow was delivered after the Soviet National Team had trounced a collection of NHL All-Stars in the third and final game of the 1979 Challenge Cup at Madison Square Garden.
The 'Master' (as John was affectionately called) was a very good communicator, was blessed with a very quick wit and terrific judgment that served him well as both a referee and following his eye injury as Director of Officiating. One time in the Boston Garden, Wayne Cashman was upset at one of McCauley's calls and told the Master he was going to shoot a puck at the ref's head. John didn't bat an eye and told Cashman if that was the case he would just skate over and stand in the opponents net. From that location he would be safest guy in the building if 'Cash' was aiming for him!
It was a hot and sunny afternoon in May, 1985, when I arrived in Philadelphia prior to Game 2 of the Cup Final between the Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers. It was just my third season to have participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a selection to the Final could have very easily overwhelmed me. I checked into the Hershey Hotel on Broad Street that was designated as the NHL headquarters and media hotel. The lobby was bustling with activity and swarming with members of the media; the likes of which I had never experienced. As I looked for an escape route from the lobby mob scene I was approached by my boss, John McCauley, who invited me to join him for an early dinner.
Looking back on it now I believe it wasn't just by chance, but more by design, that I 'bumped' into the Master and was invited to dinner. John wanted to make sure that I got off on the right foot by preparing me for this new experience. He truly cared about his staff; each and every one of us and was the kind of boss you would go through the wall for.
After we ordered dinner, John asked me how I was feeling. I confessed to being a little nervous (understatement) but was excited about the opportunity he had given me. What John McCauley shared with me in that moment is what he would also tell his eldest son Wes if John had not passed away at just 45 years of age following the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. I now pass along the Master's words of wisdom from that conversation to Wes McCauley as he too prepares for his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"You earned the right to be here (selection to Stanley Cup Final) based on your work throughout these playoffs. I assigned you to some very tough games and you passed the test with flying colors. You have proven to me that I can put you in any situation and you will neither disappoint nor let me down. Your work made the games better. I have the utmost confidence in your ability. That confidence is being rewarded with your first selection to the Stanley Cup Final. While I know there will be many more Cup Finals in your future, take this one game at a time. Prepare yourself and officiate no differently than you have in all the other games I have assigned you to. Enjoy the moment and have fun with it. I trust in your ability and most of all I believe in you!"
I have no doubt that referee Wes McCauley will do a great job in his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. If he listens closely in his heart, I would also bet that he will hear his father whisper the same words of wisdom and vote of confidence that the Master offered me.