HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- ESPN broadcaster John Saunders, a resident of Hastings-on-Hudson, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. He was 61.
Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 and had a range of assignments. He worked on the network’s NFL Primetime show from 1987-89, hosted the NHL broadcasts from 1992-2004 and was also the host of ABC’s coverage of college football. He also hosted The Sports Reporters, a weekly television show for the network. He was one of ESPN's most respected and versatile broadcasters.
Saunders was an all-star defenseman in the Montreal junior leagues, and played hockey at Western Michigan University for two years. He also played for two years at Ryerson University in Toronto.
A former colleague and close friend of the late Jim Valvano, Saunders was a founding member and serves on the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and is actively involved in many of the organization’s fundraising events and initiatives.
"John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades," ESPN President John Skipper 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."
Twitter users erupted on social media when news broke about Saunders’ death. "Every Sunday before I went to church I would watch John Saunders host one of my favorite shows, ESPN's The Sports Reporters,’’ NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson said.
“John Saunders was a better person than a host, which is saying something. Classy. Professional. I can't even describe his impact on me,’’ ESPN colleague Jemele Hill said.
Saunders is survived by wife, Wanda, and daughters, Aleah and Jenna. Both young women are graduates of Hastings High School. Saunders and his wife celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary on Aug. 8, according to Playerswives.com.