John Saunders, ESPN hockey broadcaster, dead at 61


John Saunders, a longtime ESPN host, passed away on Wednesday the network announced. He was 61.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said ESPN president John Skipper 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.”

Among the many roles Saunders had after joining the network in 1986 was leading ESPN and ABC’s hockey coverage. He was a studio host for the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1993 to 2004 and worked Rendez-vous ’87, the two-game series between the Soviet national team and an NHL All-Star team.

Saunders was set to be part of ESPN’s World Cup of Hockey coverage next month.

Saunders was not only a hockey broadcaster, he was also a player. He was part of the Western Michigan University hockey program before transferring to Ryerson University in Toronto. He worked in broadcasting while still in school and eventually got into TV and radio after graduating.

Saunders’ brother, Bernie, also played at WMU before going pro and playing 10 games in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques.

Following Dick Schaap’s death in 2001, Saunders took over the role as host of ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” where he’d always find a way to slip in some hockey talk.

Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and two daughters, Aleah and Jenna. He will be sorely missed.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!