South Portland’s Wes McCauley is at the top of his profession as an NHL referee.

He intends to stay there for a while.

“I have a goal of staying on the ice until I’m 60,” McCauley said. “You’re going to have to cut the skates off of me to get me off the ice.”

McCauley, 45, worked his fifth consecutive Stanley Cup finals this spring, officiating Games 1, 3 and 5 in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ six-game victory over the Nashville Predators. Only four of the 33 full-time NHL referees are chosen to work Stanley Cup final games, working in pairs.

“I guess I’m tricking them still,” McCauley joked. “Obviously your goal at the end of each year is to still be there when they cut down to eight guys – four referees and four linesmen.”

McCauley has been a full-time NHL referee since the 2005-06 season, working his first playoff game in 2007. He made his Stanley Cup finals debut in 2013.

In the postseason, 20 NHL referees work the first round of playoffs. Then the number is cut to 12 for the second round and eight for the conference finals. Referees are selected by the NHL director of officiating, Stephen Walkom, and his group of officiating managers.

“A lot of the old Maine Mariner fans would recognize the names of those guys,” McCauley said. “Guys like Don Koharski, Bill McCreary, Rob Shick, they’re our managers.”

McCauley said he feels his ability to communicate – with players and coaches – is a strength.

“The biggest thing I try to get across is I’m fortunate that I get to go on the ice and still be involved in hockey,” he said. “I still love the game. I always wanted to make it to the NHL as a player and never did, but this is a different path and now I get to go on the ice with, in my opinion, the best athletes in the world.

“One thing that maybe I show is that I care about the game and what’s best for the game, and each and every night I try to do the best that I can,” McCauley added. “Am I mistake free? Absolutely not. But I think I show that I care and do the best I can to not have an impact on the outcome.”

McCauley was on the ice when it appeared Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban scored the first goal of this year’s Stanley Cup finals. Pittsburgh Coach Mike Sullivan made the first coach’s challenge in finals history. After consulting with the league’s “situation room,” linesman Brian Murphy ruled a Predator had been offside when Nashville gained the zone roughly 30 seconds earlier. Subban’s goal was wiped off the board.

Pittsburgh scored on three of its next five shots and won the game, 5-3.

McCauley said the use of video replay is “basically another opportunity to get the call right,” but the on-ice officials still have to make their calls in real time.

Technology also has helped turn McCauley into a YouTube favorite for his emphatic goal and penalty announcements.

“Every once in awhile I get a little fired up,” McCauley said. “My kids think it’s a little crazy but you’re in the game a little bit sometimes.”

McCauley’s father, John McCauley, was an NHL official for 10 seasons and the league’s director of officiating at the time of his death in 1989. Wes McCauley occasionally would ref a youth game just to get some extra ice time but his goal was to make the NHL as a player.

A defenseman, he played four seasons at Michigan State. Drafted in the eighth round by the Detroit Red Wings in 1990, McCauley played professionally from 1993-97. The highest he reached were two brief stints in the International Hockey League.

His final professional season, playing in Milan, Italy, did produce a major life highlight when he met his future wife, Bethany, a South Portland native.

“Her sister was engaged to an ex-teammate of mine and she came over to visit, and I guess things just went from there,” McCauley said.

The couple have three hockey-playing children. Riley, the oldest, plays on the Cheverus High boys’ team. Daughters Emma, an incoming freshman at Cheverus, and Maggie play in the Casco Bay youth leagues.

Working 73 regular-season games means lots of travel, but McCauley stays involved with hockey at the local level.

“He has come out and run some practices,” said Cheverus boys’ hockey coach Dan Lucas. “He’s probably one of the top two or three refs in the NHL. He’s pretty intense and he loves the game of hockey, and he’s passionate about it.”

In January, the Cheverus boys’ hockey team participated in a Jesuit school tournament in Chicago. McCauley helped organize the logistics of the trip to facilitate parents’ travel and hotel stays, and secured tickets for a Chicago Blackhawks game he was officiating.

“He made a point of being able to ref that game and made a point of getting us tickets,” Lucas said.

McCauley is also a regular at local pickup games, both during and after the season. He says continuing to play gives him an appreciation for how an NHL player feels when they’ve been given a subtle hook or jersey tug.

“There’s been times where we skate Wednesday morning and he’s doing a game in Boston on a Tuesday, and he’ll be there at 6:30 in the morning skating with us,” said Steve Tsujiura of Scarborough, who scored 117 goals (plus 10 more in the playoffs) in seven seasons with the Maine Mariners. “Wes can still play. He can still skate.”

If his pickup partners think he missed a call, they don’t hesitate to give McCauley some good-natured ribbing.

“His skin is really thick now. He won’t care what we have to say,” Tsujiura said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig