The man who brought the first professional sport to San Jose has died.
The Sharks hockey team confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the original owner of the team George Gund passed away in Palm Springs at the age of 75. Team officials said he died following a long battle with cancer.
The Sharks said Gund was the biggest Sharks fan the 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," the Sharks statement read.
Gund sold his interest in the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 and was awarded an NHL expansion franchise in the Bay Area. He chose to place the team in San Jose.
Former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery remembered Gund as a gentle man who was also extremely passionate. McEnery was informed of the death because he is a member of the Sharks ownership group.
"I don't think there were too many individuals who would have taken a chance on San Jose as he did," 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."
In 2004 during his induction into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, Gund talked about his choice to bring the team to San Jose, "It was just the right place at the right time,” Gund said at the time.
“Oakland was a consideration, but we already had an experience there (Gund was a partner with the California Golden Seals who played their games at the Oakland Coliseum Arena from 1967-76.). I was a little apprehensive at first, but everyone was so enthusiastic. It evolved over time. It became the only decision we could make.”
His biography on the San Jose Sports Authority site said he acquired minority interests in the National Hockey League’s California Seals in 1975, and when the team moved to Cleveland in 1976, his brother Gordon joined him in purchasing the team and the franchise. In 1978, the Gunds merged the Cleveland team with the Minnesota North Stars.
Gund was also known for his philanthropy. He took charge of 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." He also had a passion for film and art.
In his memory, Sharks players will wear a helmet decal and, later, a jersey patch bearing his initials: GG III.