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John Saunders, longtime ESPN personality, dead at 61 – New York Daily News

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2016, 2:01 AM

John Saunders, the versatile, steady ESPN voice for nearly 30 years, died Wednesday. ESPN confirmed the passing of Saunders, 61, but did not reveal the cause of his death.

In a statement released through ESPN, Saunders’ family said they did not have “all the specifics” concerning his death.

“John wasn’t feeling well physically in recent days and, sadly, he was unresponsive earlier this morning,” the family said in a statement.

John Saunders had been with ABC/ESPN since the mid-1980s.

John Saunders had been with ABC/ESPN since the mid-1980s.

(Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

The family said Saunders’ passing brings them “unspeakable sorrow.”

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“John was the patriarch of our family and we can’t believe he is gone,” the family said.

“We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him. … We Appreciate all the thoughts and prayers for our cherished father, husband, brother and uncle.”

Saunders, who arrived at ESPN in 1986, handled a variety of assignments.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said ESPN boss John Skipper. “His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. … He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family as a colleague and mentor, and he will sorely be missed.”

Shaken Hannah Storm breaks news of John Saunders’ death on ESPN

Moments after his death was reported, his colleagues reacted.

“I can’t believe this stunning and horrible news,” said Dick Vitale, who worked with Saunders on college basketball assignments.

“John’s passion for his family, his nation, his favorite sport & the V foundation will stay with me forever,” NBC’s Mike Tirico, a longtime ESPN colleague of Saunders’, tweeted. “As will his kindness and support.”

Saunders’ death comes less than two years after the network lost another popular broadcaster, Stuart Scott, at the age of 49 after a bout with cancer.

Saunders hosted ABC’s college football studio show as well as ESPN’s “College Football Live” and college basketball studio shows. He was also a founding board member of the V Foundation.

John Saunders had been with ABC/ESPN since the mid-1980s.

John Saunders had been with ABC/ESPN since the mid-1980s.

(Robin Marchant/Getty Images for ESPN)

His list of ESPN assignments was long. To all them, from the WNBA to NHL to MLB to Sunday hosting “The Sports Reporters,” Saunders brought an informed, insightful and likeable style.

He was a native of Canada and never hid his love for hockey. An all-star defenseman in the Montreal junior leagues, Saunders played hockey at Western Michigan. At ESPN he hosted Rendez-Vous ’87, the two-game series between the NHL All-Stars and the Soviets.

Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and two daughters, Aleah and Jenna. 

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