NHL shows inconsistency with its calls

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — Matt Niskanen will play for the Washington Capitals tonight, and he should probably be grateful for that.

The NHL could have suspended him for the cross check that dealt Sidney Crosby a concussion in Game Three of their Stanley Cup series against the Penguins on Monday.

Niskanen did not target Crosby’s head. It happened that way because Crosby was falling. Niskanen was trying to take out Crosby and protect the Washington net.

Intent to injure is not the issue, though. Niskanen was careless with his stick and wound up dealing another player a potentially serious injury. That shouldn’t be tolerated in a league that says it’s committed to cracking down on head injuries.

The Penguins say Crosby is definitely out of tonight’s game. Anything after that is uncertain. A prolonged absence would obviously have an effect on this series, and could also have an impact on the Penguins’ chances to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Since it’s Crosby’s fourth concussion, it could also affect his career.

The game officials got it right by assessing a major penalty and game misconduct to Niskanen. The league office obviously didn’t take what happened quite as seriously.

If the NHL had done that, Niskanen would be a spectator tonight, just like Crosby will be.

My mistake

I misspelled the name of Pitt running back and Steelers draft choice James Conner in Sunday’s column. Thanks to the sharp-eyed e-mailers who caught the error.

My apologies to him and to you, dear reader.

Sweet deal

The Pirates’ surprise recall of catcher John Bormann from Class A Bradenton on Sunday had to be a thrill for him.

Bormann, 24, is not considered a prospect although a catcher can never be completely ruled out.

He got the call on Sunday morning because Francisco Cervelli was down with a foot injury and Bormann was close enough to get to Miami in time for the Sunday afternoon game.

He appeared as a pinch hitter and struck out. That’s not way he probably would have scripted it, but at least he’ll appear on the Pirates’ all-time roster.

Harry Saferight, another catcher, spent the last few weeks of the 1979 season with the Pirates, but he never got into a game. Officially, there’s no record of his being in the major leagues. Saferight got to the on deck circle three times, but never made those extra steps to the batters box.

Armando Moreno, an infielder, got a weekend call-up in 1990 but didn’t get into a game. He, too, is excluded from the record book.

There’s more than recognition at stake, though. Those few hours Bormann spent with the Pirates on Sunday qualified him for MLB’s pension program.

He’ll also get a share of the pooled licensing money the players get for allowing their images to be used on baseball cards and other merchandise.

Based on a pro-rated slice of the major league minimum salary, Bormann got just over $3,000 for Sunday’s brief appearance. That’s a nice little bonus for a guy getting by on a minor league salary.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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