George Gund III, the original owner of the San Jose Sharks, died Tuesday at age 75 in Palm Springs, Calif., according to the San Jose Mercury News. He was battling cancer.
Gund and his brother, Gordon, had ties to the Bay Area as part owners of the California Golden Seals. After the club moved and became the Cleveland Barons, George Gund became the team president, and he was in charge when the Barons merged with the North Stars and settled in Minnesota.
In 1990, Gund sold his stake in the North Stars when he was granted an expansion franchise in San Jose. The Sharks began play in 1991-92, using the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., as their home arena before San Jose Arena opened in 1993.
"I don't think there were too many individuals who would have taken a chance on San Jose as he did," former San Jose mayor Tom McEnery told the Mercury News. "I really think the people in San Jose, not just hockey fans, really owe George a debt of gratitude. I know that's the way I feel about him."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement, "George Gund was certain the National Hockey League could flourish in the Silicon Valley, and the strength of the Sharks franchise today was built on the foundation George created for it. Of his many interests in a life of art, of philanthropy and entrepreneurship, George's devoted support of hockey was frequently at the forefront."
The Gunds sold their stake in the Sharks after the 2001-02 season.