By ESPN.com news services
John Saunders, one of the familiar on-air faces of ESPN for nearly 30 years, has died. He was 61.
Saunders hosted studio and play-by-play programming. He covered college football, basketball and the NHL for the network, in addition to anchoring SportsCenter. He was also host of The Sports Reporters.
“This tragic news brings us unspeakable sorrow,” Saunders’ family said in a statement. “John was the patriarch of our family, and we can’t believe he is gone. We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him.
“While we don’t yet have all the specifics, John wasn’t feeling well physically in recent days and sadly, he was unresponsive earlier this morning. We appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers for our cherished father, husband, brother and uncle.”
Born in Canada, Saunders was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal. He played at Western Michigan and Ryerson Polytechnical in Toronto before becoming one of the most prominent broadcasters of his time.
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,” John Skipper, ESPN president and Disney Media Networks co-chairman, said 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.”
Read more at http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/17263104/john-saunders-long-familiar-air-face-espn-nearly-30-years-died-age-61