01/09/2012 08:18 EST | Updated 03/10/2012 05:12 EST

Harper, Putin Hockey Exhibition: Toronto Star Apologizes For 'Offside' Story

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UPDATE: The Toronto Star has released an apology admitting their story on Stephen Harper and Vladimir Putin planning to play in a hockey game to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Canada-U.S.S.R. Summit Series was "offside"

The Star originally stuck by reporter Rick Westhead's story, but after further investigation has decided the journalist made a mistake in claiming the PM was making plans to play in a game with Putin.

"Westhead’s story also outlined the risks of 'high-sticks' diplomacy, speculating on the possibility that for Harper or Putin, a lost faceoff could mean losing face on the world stage. Sadly, it was the Star’s credibility that took a hit here," wrote Kathy English, the Star's Public Editor

The Prime Minister's office is denying a report that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will square off against his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a pair of hockey games this fall.

The Toronto Star reported Monday that the two leaders will play in two exhibition games to mark the 40th anniversary of the Canada-U.S.S.R Summit Series.


However, the Prime Minister's Office has asserted that the Star's story is false. PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall tweeted "This morning's front-page Toronto Star story is false," early Monday morning. MacDougall and Harper's press secretary Sara MacIntyre both told the The Huffington Post Canada that the story is untrue.

According to the Star, the first game is reportedly scheduled for Sept. 7 in Moscow as part of a month-long event to mark the eight-game series played at the height of the Cold War.

Canada lost three of the first five games but went on to win the series, which has since become a pivotal moment in Canadian sports history.

A sources told the Star a second game is being tentatively planned for Toronto on Sept. 28.

Putin, now 59, has only been playing hockey for a year or so while Harper, who is 52, played just three years of organized hockey before the age of 13.

Stephen Harper's affection for the game is well-known though. The Prime Minister is working on a book on the game that will be published this year and has already published an introduction for Paul Henderson's book, How Hockey Explains Canada.

The Globe And Mail's Lawrence Martin dubbed Harper the Hockey Prime Minister, "He is moving big-time into our hockey space. He's on hockey platforms, promoting the sport, every chance he gets. His government renovates rinks across the land, gives tax credits for kids' hockey equipment," Martin wrote.

Putin, may not be as big a hockey fan, but might be a better athlete than Harper. The Russian leader is known for his adventurous exploits and was a competitive judoka, even offering to join the Russian team in 2010.

With files from The Canadian Press


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