John Saunders, sports journalist and broadcaster, native of Ajax, Ontario, and original voice of the Toronto Raptors, has died today. He was 61 years old.
Many tributes are already pouring in on Twitter and websites far and wide for Saunders, but I just wanted to take note of the role he had in shaping the sound of those first Raptors teams. While many think of Chuck Swirsky as the definitive narrator of the Raptors basketball, it was actually Saunders who was there on TV from day one. He held the post from the team’s inception in 1995 until 2001, when Chuck took over. For a team grasping for some sense of legitimacy, having a guy of Saunders’ calibre — a veteran sportscaster who had also worked in baseball and football for ESPN and ABC — was definitely a big deal.
Most will probably recognize Saunders from his higher profile gigs on those networks, not to mention his turn as host of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters. But for us Torontonians, we can revel in his connection to Canada and our home town team.
I can't believe my brother is gone! RIP John prayers w/u & your wonderful family! A road trip w/out me?? Love u pic.twitter.com/1lod5EP3ma— Leo Rautins (@LeoRautins) August 10, 2016
Unfortunately, try as I might, I can’t seem to find any good Youtube clip calls from Saunders’ Raptors days. Still, we remember.
RIP John Saunders, 1955-2016.