George Gund III, the original owner of the San Jose Sharks, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 75.
Gund and his brother, Gordon, relinquished their ownership stake in the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 in exchange for the rights to an expansion team for Northern California. The San Jose Sharks made their NHL debut on Oct. 4, 1991.
In addition to the Sharks and North Stars, Gund -- a longtime resident of California's Bay Area -- also held ownership stakes in the California Golden Seals and Cleveland Barons, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.
"It's a sad day for hockey and for San Jose. George was a wonderful person and a great ambassador for the game of hockey, which he truly loved. Everyone who had the privilege of playing or working for him has a heavy heart today. None of us would be here without him."
-- Sharks GM Doug Wilson on the passing of George Gund III
"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," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "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 NHL sends condolences to his loved ones."
The Gunds owned the Sharks until 2002, when they sold the franchise to Sharks Sports and Entertainment, which continues to own the team.
"George Gund III will always have a special place in the hearts of Sharks fans for his role in bringing the team to San Jose," the Sharks' ownership group said in a statement. "His love for the Sharks and the game of hockey cannot be captured in words. George was a trailblazer and he knew that NHL hockey could not only survive, but thrive in the Bay Area. The Sharks organization will always serve as a proud reminder of George's passion. He will be greatly missed and our condolences are with his family."
The team announced that players will wear a helmet decal and jersey patch with Gund's initials: GG III.
Gund, who was honored with the Lester Patrick Award for contributions to hockey in the United States in 1996, also was a lifelong philanthropist who, along with his wife, Iara, created the Iara Lee and George Gund III Foundation. Gund also continued the work of the George Gund Foundation, which had been created in 1952 with the sole purpose of contributing to human well-being and the progress of society.
"It's a sad day for hockey and for San Jose," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "George was a wonderful person and a great ambassador for the game of hockey, which he truly loved. Everyone who had the privilege of playing or working for him has a heavy heart today. None of us would be here without him."
Former Sharks president and CEO Greg Jamison said, "George was a true renaissance man. He was a world-renowned global traveler, and he loved to watch hockey being played at all levels across the world. I have an immense amount of respect for what he accomplished and what the Sharks meant to him. Along with my wife, Vicki, our thoughts and prayers go out to George's family."