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The Cool Ref

Wes McCauley continues reign as world’s coolest ref with hilarious fighting penalty call

January 05, 2022

How many former players do you know who became referees in their sport following retirement? Go ahead, we’ll wait. The two forces are diametrically opposed—Wil E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Coca-Cola and Mentos. You don’t cross that line, no matter how great your thirst for power and/or payback … unless your name is Wes McCauley.

McCauley was drafted in the eighth round by the Detroit Red Wings in 1990 and kicked around the minor-league and international circuits for much of the decade before retiring in 1997 due to injury. That’s when McCauley made the switch to the other side of the puck drop and never looked back, becoming the NHL’s defacto cool parent for the better part of the last 15 years.

McCauley has become known for his signature penalty and review calls, keeping the former light and the latter suspenseful while earning fan-favorite status in the process. Despite his ever-expanding audition reel, however, McCauley might have enjoyed his best moment as an ice cop on Tuesday night with this humdinger of a fighting call on Detroit’s Givani Smith and San Jose’s Jacob Middleton. Take it away, Wes.

If we didn’t know any better, we’d say McCauley was about to ring the bell on a heavyweight title bout, not send two guys to the box for, and we quote, fightinnngggg. He says it with such zest and zeal that it almost seems like a treat instead of punishment, like trying to trick your dog into taking a car ride to the vet. You also have to love McCauley’s seamless transition from generic ref gesture into the international symbol for “put up ya dukes.” That subtle piece of flair ties the whole thing together and cements McCauley as the national (or international, if you include Canada) treasure hockey knows, loves, and deserves.