John Saunders, one of ESPN’s most beloved hosts for nearly 30 years, has died, the network announced on Wednesday, August 10. He was 61.
The sports journalist, who joined the ESPN team in December 1986, was best known for his coverage of college football, basketball and the NHL. He was also a news anchor on the Sunday night edition of SportsCenter during the NFL season and previously hosted The Sports Reporters.
“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.”
Skipper continued, “He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
Prior to Saunders’ broadcasting career, he was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues in Montreal, Canada. He later played at Western Michigan University.
Several of the TV personality’s colleagues took to Twitter after the news broke to share heartfelt messages to Saunders.
“The news of John Saunders’ death could not be more crushing,” ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen tweeted. “We all loved him dearly. We grieve. We will miss him. Can’t replace the man.”
Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and their daughters, Aleah and Jenna.
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