John Saunders, Longtime ESPN Host, Dies at 61

“His wide range of accomplishments … is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen,” says ESPN president John Skipper

Last Updated: August 10, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

John Saunders, who has been an ESPN host for nearly 30 years, has died at the age of 61.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said Wednesday in a statement confirming Saunders’ death. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 as a “SportsCenter” anchor, and he handled play-by-play for a variety of sports as one of the company’s most-tenured commentators. After joining ESPN, he also worked on a number of ABC sports broadcasts beginning in 1990, including NCAA basketball, college football and NHL.

“His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen,” Skipper continued. “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.”

Saunders was a founding member and served on the board of directors for the V Foundation, and he was actively involved in many of the organization’s fundraising events and initiatives, according to the network.

The Canada native was an all-star hockey player in college and began his career as the news director for CKNS Radio in Espanola, Ontario, before becoming a sports anchor on Canadian news broadcasts.

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