SAN JOSE, California - It is with great sadness that Sharks Sports & Entertainment confirms that George Gund III, the original and long-time owner of the San Jose Sharks, passed away this morning at the age of 75 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Gund passed away peacefully with his wife, Iara, son George IV, brother Gordon and his wife, Lulie, at his side.
"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," said the ownership group of Sharks Sports & Entertainment. "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."
In his memory during the 2012-13 season, the Sharks will wear a helmet decal and, later, a jersey patch bearing his initials: GG III.
In 1990, Gund, a long-time Bay Area resident, along with his brother Gordon, relinquished their ownership stake in the National Hockey League's Minnesota North Stars in exchange for the rights to an expansion NHL franchise in the Bay Area.
In Sept. of that year, the Gunds announced that the team would be named the "Sharks" and that their permanent home would be in San Jose. And on Oct. 4, 1991, the team played their first National Hockey League game.
George Gund could be considered the biggest fan the Sharks franchise ever knew. He was a regular at home and road games, following the team intently, regardless of his location on the globe. He was a life-long fan of the game, and could be found skating on the ice at HP Pavilion hours before games well into his 60's. Everywhere he went, he could always be found wearing his Sharks lapel pin on his jacket.
In 1996, Gund was named as the recipient of the Lester Patrick Award, presented for "outstanding service to hockey in the United States."
Gund sold the Sharks franchise to Sharks Sports & Entertainment in 2002 but continued to attend Sharks games whenever he could.
In 2008, he was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.
A lifelong philanthropist, Gund continued the George Gund Foundation, created by his father in 1952, with the sole purpose of contributing to human well-being and the progress of society. In 2004, George and Iara created the Iara Lee and George Gund III Foundation. The couple also shared a passion for film and art.
Along with the North Stars, Gund previously held ownership roles within the NHL's California Golden Seals and Cleveland Barons, and the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
Service arrangements have not yet been announced.
"It's a sad day for hockey and for San Jose," said Sharks Executive Vice President & General Manager Doug Wilson. "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."
"George was a true renaissance man," said Sharks former President & Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison. "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."