John Saunders, one of the familiar on-air faces of ESPN for nearly 30 years, has died. Saunders covered college football, basketball and the NHL for the network, in addition to hosting SportsCenter and, most recently, The Sports Reporters. Born in Canada, Saunders was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal before becoming one of the most prominent broadcasters of his time. He was also a founding board member of the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research, named for his longtime college basketball partner. Saunders was 61. John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said in a statement:
“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades. 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.”
Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and his daughters Aleah and Jenna.