SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm was visibly shaken by the news that longtime ESPN personality John Saunders had died at 61.
Storm announced her colleague's death live on Wednesday morning's SportsCenter, and shortly thereafter, ESPN president John Skipper released a 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," Skipper said. "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. 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' career in sports journalism spanned decades. He joined ESPN in 1986, where he served as a SportsCenter anchor, and went on to host The Sports Reporters for 15 years. He also worked as a studio host and play-by-play analyst for ABC, and covered MLB, NHL and WNBA games as well as NCAA football and basketball.
Prior to reporting on sports, Saunders was an athlete himself. Canadian-born, he was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal, and played at Western Michigan and Ryerson Polytechnical in Toronto.
In addition to his contributions to sports journalism, Saunders was also a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and served on its board of directors.
He is survived by his wife, Wanda, and two daughters, Aleah and Jenna.
Following news of his death, Saunders' friends and colleagues started sending out their sympathies.
John Saunders was incredibly generous to me in every single instance. He was such a tremendous man & I’ll miss his laughter the most— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) August 10, 2016
The times I got to be around John Saunders were special. Just different. Classy. Funny. I truly was a fan.— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) August 10, 2016
John Saunders & his beautiful family / Heart goes out to wife Wanda / & his Pride & Joy girls Jenna & Aleah Pls RIP pic.twitter.com/BqnGNCpVld— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) August 10, 2016
John Saunders left an extraordinary legacy. pic.twitter.com/oexhjGOD3T— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 10, 2016
Wow I am devastated with the news about my buddy John Saunders / A gr8 family man / just a fab guy RIP Love You pic.twitter.com/CuBIPu57Rz— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) August 10, 2016
Devastating doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now. John Saunders was a wonderful man, ultra pro & father figure.#RIP— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 10, 2016
Our friend and colleague John Saunders has passed away. He was 61. pic.twitter.com/Ness3DvB7t— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 10, 2016
This isn't the first time ESPN has mourned the death of one of their own. In January 2015, renowned sports journalist Stuart Scott died at 49 after a battle with cancer.
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