News broke out on Wednesday regarding ESPN host John Saunders untimely passing, at 61 years old. The cause of death has not been made public. He’s survived by his beloved wife Wanda and their two daughters, Aleah and Jenna.
For thirty long years, Saunders worked at ESPN as a host, famous for his friendly demeanor and outgoing nature, both in front and behind the camera and microphone.
A nice fellow
Saunders was born in Ajax, Ontario, Canada on February 2, 1955. He attended high school in Montreal and had been an all-star defenseman in the junior leagues of said city. He got a scholarship from playing hockey and was part of the team at the Western Michigan University from 1974 to 1976.
Saunders would eventually transfer to Ryerson University, Toronto and play for the local team, the Rams, for another two years, until 1978. Afterward, he would be named to the Ontario University Athletic Association All-Star team.
It’s in these years that he would start his career in sports journalism, being news director at CKNS Radio, in the small town of Espanola, Ontario in 1978.
He would move on to work for the following years as a sports anchor at various TV stations across Canada, such as CKNY-TV the city of North Bay, Ontario, ATV News in the maritime province of New Brunswick, and finally for CITY-TV, in the city of Toronto for two years, until 1982.
He would eventually move to the United States, and worked as a sports anchor at WMAR-TV, in Baltimore, from 1982 to 1986.
It was in 1986 when Saunders would join ESPN, co-hosting NFL Primetime from 1987 to 1988, before becoming the studio host for the NHL broadcasts, from 1992 to 2004.
In 2001 he would also become the host of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters after Dick Schaap’s illness and subsequent death.
In addition to this, he also anchored the 1995 World Series, hosted ABC’s coverage of baseball (in Baseball Night in America) and college football.
Saunders would also provide play-by-play commentary for ESPN’s coverage of the NBA (from 2002 to 2004, and occasionally during 2007) and host NBA Shootaround from 2004 to 2006.
Remembering a good man
Perhaps most importantly, John Saunders is remembered by his colleagues, friends, and family as an inspiration; an excellent person, always kind and helpful.
Saunders was one of the founding members of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, an advocate for juvenile diabetes, mentored aspiring reporters, and just last month, in Washington D.C, he spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists.
Many have paid tribute to him on Twitter, highlighting his kind personality.
Indianapolis Colts player Pat McAfee, after admitting that he found most ESPN personalities tough to like, mentions that John was “somebody you couldn’t help but love.”
Some, such as fellow ESPN personalities Jay Harris and Rece Davis referred to him as a mentor. Naturally, condolences to his family abound.
John Saunders, our beloved colleague at ESPN for nearly 30 years, has died. He was 61. https://t.co/MScZNaXoZY
— ESPN (@espn) August 10, 2016
“John Saunders was our friend. You were immediately comfortable with John in 30 seconds; I was fortunate enough to be comfortable with him for 30 years,” said Berman. “With John Saunders, you knew you were in special company. His mark on ESPN is indelible. His mark on us all even more so,” a particularly sweet comment from Chris Berman, who worked with him for his entire 30-year tenure at ESPN.