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Hockey legend Guy Lafleur let it be known yesterday that he does not -- repeat, does not -- suffer from erectile dysfunction.

That won't stop the Canadian sports icon, whose name is synonymous with scoring and high performance, from becoming the newest spokesman for the male affliction.

Following in the footsteps of former U.S. presidential candidate Bob Dole, the 49-year-old Mr. Lafleur has accepted an offer by Pfizer, maker of Viagra, to appear in a series of television ads that address impotence.

The all-too-predictable jokes didn't take long to materialize. Yesterday, at a charity golf tournament held by the Canadiens, Mr. Lafleur said he had already been treated to some serious ribbing after news of his pitch leaked out.

"It doesn't bother me. I have a message to get across. If people want to make jokes, it's their problem, not mine," Mr. Lafleur, a married father of two, said in an interview.

Observers say Pfizer scored a marketing coup by signing on the celebrated stickhandler, whose appearance is expected to push the erstwhile taboo topic out of the closet.

In the ad, which places Mr. Lafleur inside a locker room, the Hall of Famer puts it bluntly: "Talking about ED can be pretty tough," he says about erectile dysfunction, before enjoining men to "get the most out of life."

While Mr. Lafleur's decision to team up with Pfizer is sure to raise eyebrows, he said he did it to urge men to seek medical attention. The ads run in English and French beginning this weekend.

"It's a question of health, not sex," he said in the interview. "But it's not a subject men want to talk about. Most are machos and never have a problem."

He said he was paid an unspecified but "very interesting" sum by Pfizer.

Observers predicted that Mr. Lafleur's virile image would help destigmatize erectile dysfunction for Canadians.

"Guy Lafleur is not 78 years old. He's still middle-aged, in good physical shape and has a macho image," said Christian Bourque, vice-president at Léger Marketing in Montreal. "This sends the message that erectile dysfunction can happen to anybody -- even pro athletes."

Pfizer said it approached Mr. Lafleur because he's a "guy's guy." They never considered a politician.

"We were looking for someone who is very credible and very well respected," said Sophie McCann, manager of corporate affairs at Pfizer Canada Inc. "It would have been much more difficult to get a politician who's unanimously recognized, credible and bilingual.

"The fact he's a hockey legend gives him credibility and respect. He has the stature to tell another guy what to do, and he'll listen. Not everyone can pull it off."

Mr. Lafleur isn't the first Canadian athlete to have his name associated with health problems. Superstar Wayne Gretzky became the spokesman for osteoarthritis and promoted the pain reliever Tylenol in television commercials.

In Mr. Lafleur's case, the name Viagra does not actually appear in the ads, because Canadian regulations bar direct advertising for drugs. However, observers say the commercials -- which the company calls "public-service announcements" -- will help boost Pfizer's promotion of the little blue pills, which are advertised directly in the United States.

Dr. James Wilson, president of the Canadian Urological Association, said Mr. Lafleur's pitch may help ease the jokes about erectile dysfunction, but they may also increase pressure for Canada to follow the United States and allow prescription-drug advertising.

"This is another marketing strategy," Dr. Wilson said. "And it's raising expectations that may not be able to be met."