Gordon Gund (born October 15, 1939) is the former principal owner of the National Basketball Association's Cleveland Cavaliers, a co-owner of the San Jose Sharks NHL team, and remains the CEO of Gund Investment Corporation and a minority owner of the Cavaliers.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Gund is a member of one of Cleveland's more prominent families. He gradually began going blind in the 1960s because of the disease retinitis pigmentosa. By 1970, Gund was totally blind. As a result, during his tenure as an owner, he has never been able to see a game played by any of his teams.
Term as an NHL owner[edit | edit source]
California Golden Seals and Cleveland Barons[edit | edit source]
Gund's brother, George, held a minority interest in the California Golden Seals of the NHL. The Seals had never been able to find success either on the ice or at the box office, and after plans for a proposed new arena in San Francisco were cancelled in 1976, he convinced majority owner Mel Swig to relocate the franchise from Oakland to the Gunds' hometown in June of that year. Renamed the Barons after the popular former American Hockey League team, they played at The Coliseum in Richfield, which had been vacated by the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association when they moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota to become the second incarnation of the Minnesota Fighting Saints.
The Barons only drew 10,000 or more fans in seven out of their 40 home games. They were also troubled by an unfavorable lease with the Coliseum. In January 1977, Swig hinted the team might not finish the season because of payroll difficulties. The Barons actually missed payroll twice in a row in February, and only a $1.3 million loan allowed the Barons to finish the season. They finished last in the Adams Division, and Swig sold his interest in the team to the Gunds.
The Gunds poured money into the team, and it seemed to make a difference at first. The Barons stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens on November 23 before a boisterous crowd of 12,859. After a brief slump, general manager Harry Howell pulled off several trades in an attempt to make the team tougher. It initially paid off, and the Barons knocked off three of the NHL's top teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres in consecutive games in January 1978. A few weeks later, a record crowd of 13,110 saw the Barons tie the Philadelphia Flyers 2–2. The bottom fell out in February, however, as a 15-game losing skid knocked the Barons out of playoff contention.
Minnesota North Stars[edit | edit source]
At the end of the 1977–78 season, plans to buy the Coliseum outright fell through, and the Barons' small crowds and continuing struggles placed the franchise's viability in serious doubt. Meanwhile, the ownership of the Minnesota North Stars could no longer sustain the team. Since Minnesota was perceived as the more desirable hockey market at the time, NHL President John Ziegler oversaw a merger between the two franchises, with the Gunds assuming ownership of the North Stars, and Minnesota moving into Cleveland's position in the Adams Division. Within three seasons, the North Stars would make the Stanley Cup Finals, thanks to the Gunds' willingness to invest in the team and the addition of a number of talented players, including goaltender Gilles Meloche, from the Barons' roster
After the NHL geographically realigned their divisions in 1981, placing the North Stars in the rough-and-tumble Norris Division, the Gunds would see attendance drop at the Metropolitan Sports Center while the team struggled on the ice. While there was a strong core of die-hard fans, the team often struggled to sell out its home games.
San Jose Sharks[edit | edit source]
By 1990, the Gunds had decided on a plan to relocate the franchise to the San Francisco Bay Area, the market they had vacated some 14 years earlier. Ziegler and the league refused to allow this move, but allowed the Gunds to sell the North Stars to Howard Baldwin and granted them an expansion team in the Bay Area, which became the San Jose Sharks.
With an expansion roster, the Sharks finished last in the NHL standings in their first two seasons, when they played out of the old Cow Palace, a facility the Seals and the NHL had rejected in 1967. With the opening of the San Jose Arena in 1993, however, the Gunds would be able to spend more on the team, and they made waves throughout the NHL with high-profile first-round upsets in the 1994 and 1995 playoffs. While the franchise could not maintain consistent success on the ice, they have enjoyed a high level of popularity, and their home arena is consistently one of the loudest in the NHL.
In February 2002, the Gunds sold the Sharks to a consortium, named San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises.