Henry Polessky, who founded Fitness World health clubs in Canada, which later became Steve Nash Fitness Clubs, has died. He was 73.

Polessky died on Jan. 9 surrounded by family members, according to a press release from Steve Nash Fitness Clubs, Vancouver, British Columbia. Straight.com reported that Polessky had been battling cancer.

Polessky founded Fitness World in 1978 and grew the company to 13 clubs throughout British Columbia. Angelo Gordon and Co. acquired Fitness World in 2009 in a partnership with New Evolution Ventures and Steve Nash Sports Club, which bears the name of the longtime NBA basketball player. Polessky became an advisor to Steve Nash Fitness Clubs.

John McCarthy, former executive director of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), called Polessky "a worthy exemplar for the next generation of club owners" and "one of the finest guys I ever met."

"In many ways, in the 1980s and '90s, his clubs, with their emphasis on circuit training and small group exercise, were light years ahead of most of the industry," McCarthy says. "A great club owner, a great leader, and a great human being."

Augie Nieto, the founder of Life Fitness, recalls Polessky as one of the first people to buy a sponsorship for the Bash for Augie's Quest, an annual event that has coincided with the IHRSA show since 2006. Augie's Quest raises money to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.

"I'm deeply saddened by this news," Nieto told Club Industry via email. "His generosity has made a large impact in our fight against ALS, and I will forever consider him a good friend and fitness industry legend."

Don Harbich, president and CEO of Steve Nash Fitness Clubs, said Polessky was an influential figure in the development of the company.

"Henry was a great advisor to the organization, and he showed true pride and dedication in his work in the fitness industry," Harbich said in a statement. "His passing is a loss not only to the company but to our entire community. He will be greatly missed."