Legends of the Game

John McCauley

During this time that we all are trying to keep busy, and keep our minds active, I thought I would add a new weekly feature called…

“Legends of the Game”


The first “legend” came from a 1999 article by Mark Evans on John “Gus” McCauley.

I hope you enjoy…

John “Gus” McCauley was a legend in his own time. John began his lacrosse career as a four year old in Brampton, and during his minor playing days he became a hard nosed, two-way player. John led his minor lacrosse teams to novice, peewee, and bantam Ontario Minor Lacrosse Association championships, and it was not uncommon to see him playing one or even two age groups higher than his own. At 14 years of age McCauley helped the Brampton Excelsiors win their third consecutive Canadian Junior Lacrosse championship in 1959, and became the youngest player to play on a Minto Cup championship team, a CLA record that remains to this day. Over the years John developed as one of the most potent and feared “bounce shot” shooters in his six additional Jr. “A” seasons. McCauley, always an Excelsior, bolstered the Hastings Legionnaires and Oshawa Green Gaels in their Canadian Junior championship marches in 1961 and 1963 respectively.

John also excelled in other sports. As a hockey goaltender, he practiced with the Brampton Junior “B”s while still playing peewee, served as the backup goalie to Metro Jr. “A” Brampton Seven Ups, and starred with the Brampton’s OMHA Juvenile “A” champions in 1962. Fullback John McCauley was the “Big Train” Lionel Conacher of the Central Peel Griffins in the 1960’s, and in the spring…there was John, the 100 and 200-yard sprinter.
John began his professional officiating career in 1967 and advanced to the NHL in 1970 where he refereed over 500 games in 10 seasons. As an on-ice official, John was always in control of the game and was highly respected by both players and coaches. As Don Cherry and Scotty Bowman said of John, “the one man they always wanted in a deciding game was John McCauley, he let the boys play the game while keeping an easy going manner”. In 1981, John was named Assistant Director of Officiating for the NHL following an early retirement due to an eye injury. He became the Director of Officiating in 1986, a post he held until his death in June of 1989.

But for John, Lacrosse was “in his blood” and it remained his first love. John was a fierce competitor, and as close friend Dean McLeod recounts” it didn’t matter what John was doing in life, being a family man, being a referee, being a hockey administrator, being an athlete, or being a lacrosse coach, he was always dedicated, competitive, and fair, while always having fun…he quickly gained the respect of everyone he encountered. ” Following his years as a player, John went on to coach the Brampton Jr.”A” Excelsiors in the late 1960’s and the Senior Excelsiors in 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981, adding a Mann Cup Canadian championship to his list of achievements in 1980. In 1978, he acted as a defensive coach of Canada’s World Field Lacrosse Champions in the UK. In 1983, he guided the Brampton Peewee Excelsiors to a Canadian Championship.

Following John’s untimely death in 1989, the Excelsiors Lacrosse Club voted unanimously to retire sweater number “8” from their three clubs. As an ongoing tribute, the Brampton Minor Lacrosse Association decided to hold it’s annual tournament in honour of John’s many significant contributions to Brampton’s game, Lacrosse.
NHL Referee from 1970-81

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