Sheldon Keefe addresses the Wes McCauley controversy.

Sheldon Keefe addresses the Wes McCauley controversy.

The head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs speaks on a potential conflict of interest from referee Wes McCauley.

Jonathan Larivee

The National Hockey League made a controversial decision on Sunday when it was revealed that referee Wes McCauley would oversee Game 3 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers.

McCauley's potential conflict of interest stems from a combination of his familial relationships and the past associations of head coach Sheldon Keefe,  and how those two are all intertwined. As a result of this perceived bias McCauley has developed quite the unfavorable reputation among fans in Toronto, a reputation that it would seem Sheldon Keefe himself does not feel is well deserved.

On Sunday, just prior to Game 3, Keefe was asked about McCauley as an official and Keefe gave a rather surprising response. Keefe praised the official for treating him well during his time in league, this in spite of the fact that the two men have had some very heated, and quite public, verbal exchanges in the past.

"Officials don't have any impact on the game and it's not my focus," said Keefe when asked about McCauley. "Wes has treated me like a true professional the whole time that I've been in this league and I've been very appreciative of that."

Of course you can make the argument that Keefe really doesn't have much of a choice but to respond in this manner. Not only does McCauley have considerable power over the fate of his team moving forward in Game 3, but any criticism of McCauley could potentially bring down discipline from the NHL in the form of fines.