Long-time ESPN host and play-by-play man John Saunders has died at age 61. He covered college football, basketball and the NHL for the network for nearly 30 years, joining ESPN in December 1986.
Saunders was a respected voice in television. While growing up in Toronto, Saunders developed an unyielding passion for hockey. In 2012, he shared with rolling out reporter Amir Shaw during a visit to ESPN his perspective on why there are so few Blacks in the sport.
Saunders was a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and served on its board of directors.
“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, in a statement. “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.
“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.”
He leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Wanda, and two daughters Aleah and Jenna.