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Marius Fortier, 79, Nordiques founder

QUEBEC -- Marius Fortier, the man known as the father of the Quebec Nordiques, died Friday at the age of 79.

''I am very sad because I just lost my best friend in the world," said Peter Stastny, former captain of the NHL team that eventually became the Colorado Avalanche.

In 1972, Mr. Fortier and five partners helped Quebec City earn a franchise in the now-defunct World Hockey Association.

''Marius Fortier clearly deserved the title as father of the Nordiques," Stastny said.

Guy Lafleur, who played for both the Nordiques and the Montreal Canadiens, said Mr. Fortier was one of a kind.

''He was the father of the Nordiques and the father of the players," he said.

The team's adventure with the WHA lasted seven years and led, in 1979, to expansion into the NHL.

Not satisfied with just being one of the team's founders, Mr. Fortier also was its first general manager. One of his first decisions -- naming superstar Maurice Richard head coach -- surprised Quebec's sporting world. Richard lasted just two games behind the bench.

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