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By Samuel Alioto
Observer Staff Writer 

John Saunders Dead of Congestive Heart Failure at 61

ESPN broadcaster died early on Wednesday at his New York home.


August 12, 2016

Longtime ESPN personality John Saunders is dead, as reported live this morning on SportsCenter by anchor Hannah Storm

Longtime ESPN broadcaster John Saunders has died, ESPN's Hannah Storm announced live on the ESPN network in an emotional broadcast from the Rio Olympics. He died Wednesday at 61. The apparent cause of death is congestive heart failure.

Saunders wife reportedly call local police around 4 AM, after she could not awaken him. They sent paramedics to the Saunders home, who found him non-responsive.

Saunders lived in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with his wife and 2 daughters. The Canadian native had worked at ESPN since 1986 and was one of the network's most visible and respected anchors.

Mrs. Saunders released a statement later in the day thanking the public for their well wishes. She said that her husband had not been feeling well in recent days. He reportedly suffered from depression and had co-authored a book about his fight with depression to be released in April 2017.

"This tragic news brings us unspeakable sorrow," Saunders' family said in a statement. "John was the patriarch of our family, and we can't believe he is gone. We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and sadness, which is a reflection of the character and integrity that defined him. While we don't yet have all the specifics, John wasn't feeling well physically in recent days and sadly, he was unresponsive earlier this morning. We appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers for our cherished father, husband, brother and uncle."

Many of Saunders's colleagues at ESPN reacted emotionally live on the air to news of Saunders death, including Hannah Storm, Stephen A. Smith, Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.

According to his ABC biography, Saunders was an all-star defenseman in the Montreal junior leagues, received a scholarship and played hockey at Western Michigan University from 1974–76. His brother, Bernie Saunders, also played hockey at Western Michigan during this time. The university's official hockey media guide lists Saunders as having played limited time for the Broncos in that time frame, and also lists his hometown as Ajax, Ontario. He attended high school in Montreal. He transferred to Ryerson University in Toronto and played for the Rams from 1976–78. After the 1977–78 season, Saunders was named to the Ontario University Athletic Association All-Star team.

He was the news director for CKNS Radio (Espanola, Ontario, 1978), and sports anchor at CKNY-TV (North Bay, Ontario, 1978–1979) and at ATV News (New Brunswick, 1979–1980).

He also served as the main sports anchor for CITY-TV (Toronto, 1980–1982). He then moved to the United States to work as a sports anchor at WMAR-TV (Baltimore, 1982–1986).

Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 and was the host of ESPN's The Sports Reporters. He previously co-hosted NFL Primetime from 1987 to 1989. He was also the studio host for the network's NHL broadcasts from 1992–93 until 2004, and was the studio host of ABC's coverage of college football. He has also hosted ABC's coverage of baseball under the Baseball Night in America banner and was involved in ESPN's coverage earlier in his career. He also anchored the 1995 World Series.

Longtime ESPN personality John Saunders is dead, as reported live this morning on SportsCenter by anchor Hannah Storm

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

Heart failure is a common, costly, and potentially fatal condition. In developed countries, around 2% of adults have heart failure and in those over the age of 65, this increases to 6–10%

Heart failure (HF), often referred to as congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain blood flow to meet the body's needs. Common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease including a previous myocardial infarction (heart attack), high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, valvular heart disease, excess alcohol use, use of drugs such as cocaine, infection, and cardiomyopathy of an unknown cause.


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