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Minister in penalty box; picks Canucks over Canadiens @NHL

OTTAWA - Heritage Minister James Moore landed himself in the political penalty box Monday after indirectly dissing the Habs.

Moore forgot the unwritten rule for federal ministers: never reveal who you're rooting for in major sports competitions. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan, is careful about not offending the Calgary Flames supporters in his riding.

But Moore, who represents a Vancouver-area riding, joked about his true colours over the weekend.

"The Canucks are Canada's team in these playoffs. Plus, they're wearing those handsome Canadian Alliance-esque blue-green jerseys," he said, referring to his old party.

The joke didn't go over so well with some politicians, who said he was offside and insulting to the Montreal Canadiens.

"I mean the only Canadian team is the Canadian team in the Olympics that just won the gold medal," said NDP Leader Jack Layton, who grew up near Montreal.

"I would enjoy watching, as many Canadians would, the Montreal Canadiens up against the Canucks and that would be an exciting Canadian match, but I think he'd better go back and study his history books."

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said Moore should know better as the minister tasked with bringing Canadians together culturally.

"People need to take how they express themselves as members of Parliament a little more seriously ... instead of scoring easy points with one's constituents," said Trudeau.

Liberal colleague Denis Coderre, who routinely provides play-by-play descriptions of Canadiens games on Twitter, said Moore was as subtle as former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tiger Williams.

Moore, one of the ministers appointed to oversee the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, backtracked on his tweet Monday - but called on everyone to "lighten up."

"People are passionate about their hockey, I love my hockey, and I'd love to see the Habs and the Canucks in the final," Moore said.

"Canadiens played great last night, the Canucks have been playing great, and hopefully they'll play great tonight, but everyone should have a good time and lighten up a bit."

The Montreal-Pittsburgh semifinal series is tied 1-1, with the next game set for Montreal on Tuesday. Vancouver won their first semifinal game against Chicago on Saturday, with the second game in the series set for the windy city Monday night.

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