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ESPN Anchor John Saunders Dies

NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — John Saunders, a broadcaster and anchor on ESPN for more than 30 years, has died. He was 61.

Saunder's death was announced by ESPN on Tuesday. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Canada,Saunders played hockey first as an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal and then at Western Michigan and Ryerson Polytechnical in Toronto before he moved into a journalism career.

After a series of positions at local news outlets, including news director for CKNS Radio in Espanola, Ontario; sports anchor at CKNY-TV in North Bay, Ontario and sports anchor at WMAR-TV Baltimore, he joined ESPN in 1986, co-hosting NFL Primetime and the network's NHL broadcasts.

In 2001, he took over hosting duties for the network's panel show The Sports Reporters following the death of Dick Schaap in 2001.

He also provided play-by-play coverage of NBA games and hosted ESPN's NBA Shootaround from 2004 to 2006.

In addition to his work with ESPN, Saunders hosted ABC's coverage of baseball as a part Baseball Night in America, the short-lived collaboration between ABC, NBC and Major League Baseball.

Saunders was a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and served on its board of directors.

"John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades," John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, 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.

"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' survivors include his wife, Wanda, and daughters Aleah and Jenna, ESPN said. – Staff Writers