John Saunders Died; Veteran ESPN Broadcaster Was 61

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John Saunders, a long-time broadcaster and journalist for ESPN, died suddenly today at the age of 61.

Saunders hosted studio and play-by-play programming on the network for decades.

He covered a wide range of sports, from college football… to basketball… to professional hockey, often anchoring SportsCenter and serving for years as host of The Sports Reporters.

Saunders was born in Canada and was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal.

He then went on to play at Western Michigan before becoming one of the most prominent broadcasters of his era.

Colleague Hannah Storm was forced to make a live announcement of Saunders’ death while reporting from Brazil.

Here it is:

In response to this tragic news, John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, has released the following 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.

Added Skipper:

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 joined ESPN in December 1986 as a SportsCenter anchor.

Expect endless tributes to pour forth today and this week from his co-workers, but we’ll start here with a couple.

Wrote Chris Mortensen on Twitter early Wednesday:

“The news of John Saunders’ death could not be more crushing. We all loved him dearly. We grieve. We will miss him. Can’t replace the man.”

ESPN’s Adam Scheffer, meanwhile, said he was “sickened and saddened” by the news.

No details regarding Saunders’ death are available at this time.

The Hollywood Gossip