The Sharks were founded in 1991 and were the first NHL franchise based in the San Francisco Bay Area since the California Golden Seals relocated to Cleveland in 1976. The Sharks have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals once, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. They have won the Presidents' Trophy once, as the team with the league's best regular-season record in the 2008–09 season. They have also won six division titles as a member of the Pacific Division since 1993.
Professional hockey in the Bay Area can be traced to the San Francisco Shamrocks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League from 1944 to 1950. The Sharks origins began with the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League (WHL) when they were awarded an expansion franchise for San Francisco on April 23, 1961, to former Vancouver Canucks owner Coleman (Coley) Hall, on the condition that an ice surface is installed in the Cow Palace. The Seals won three WHL championships and renamed to the California Seals in 1966, playing their games at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
The following season, the California Golden Seals joined the NHL, played their seasons from 1967 to 1976, who were neither successful on the ice nor at the box office. Gordon and George Gund III became minority owners of the Seals in 1974, and were instrumental in their move to Cleveland in 1976 and a 1978 merger with the Minnesota North Stars, which they purchased that year. They had long wanted to bring hockey back to the Bay Area, and asked the NHL for permission to move the North Stars there in the late 1980s, but the league vetoed the proposed move. Meanwhile, a group led by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin was pushing the NHL to bring a team to San Jose, where a new arena was being built. Eventually, the League struck a compromise: the Gunds would sell their share of the North Stars to Baldwin's group, with the Gunds receiving an expansion team in the Bay Area to begin play in the 1991–92 season and being allowed to take a certain number of players from the North Stars to their new club. In return, the North Stars would be allowed to participate as an equal partner in an expansion draft with the new Bay Area team. On May 5, 1990, the Gunds officially sold their share of the North Stars to Baldwin and were awarded a new team for the Bay Area, based in San Jose. The owners paid to the league an expansion fee of US$45 million and the new franchise was approved on May 9.
Over 5,000 potential names were submitted by mail for the new team. While the first-place finisher was "Blades", the Gunds were concerned about the name's potentially negative association with weapons, and went with the runner-up, "Sharks." The name was said to have been inspired by the large number of sharks living in the Pacific Ocean. Seven varieties live there, and one area of water near the Bay Area is known as the "red triangle" (hence the triangle in the team's logo) because of its shark population.