Dancing with The Stars has paid an emotional tribute to the legendary Len Goodman – and renamed their Mirrorball trophy.
It’s the first season of the American version of Strictly Come Dancing to air since the death of beloved former head judge, who sadly passed away in April this year aged 78.
Len was one of the original DWTS judges, along with Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, when it debuted in 2005 – and the trio worked on the show together for more than a decade until his departure last year.
In tonight’s season premiere, which is being broadcast on ABC and Disney+, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the tribute to Len was announced.
Host Alfonso Ribeiro explained: “As tribute to him we redesigned and renamed our ultimate prize. Let’s get a first look at the Len Goodman Mirrorball trophy.”
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Co-host Julianne Hough said “irreplacable” Len “will always be going forward with us” as they “keep his spirit alive”.
She also teased a “spectacular” dance tribute to the former judge in a few weeks that viewers “won’t want to miss”.
“I love that #DWTS named the mirrorball trophy after Len. What a fitting tribute,” said one viewer.
Another added: “I’m loving this! Beautiful Len Goodman Mirror Ball Trophy!!!”
“Tears already! The Len Goodman Mirror ball trophy! That’s a good tribute,” wrote a third.
Len announced his exit from the show during last year’s season where he confirmed he would be retiring from the show.
The former dance teacher explained that he wanted to spend more time with his family in the UK.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Len gave some details about why he made the decision to step down: “Doing a live show you have to be at the top of your game and quick to react. And as one gets older, then things start to get more challenging.
“I haven’t fallen asleep or started dribbling yet on the show, so I thought it’s best to go before I start to do so!”
Following his sad departure it has been reported that Derek Hough will fill Len’s – rather big – shoes as head judge in the upcoming season.
However, just a few months after his retirement it was announced that Len died, aged 78, on April 22 this year.
At the time there were reports suggesting that he had previously been diagnosed with bone cancer and that he had been staying in a hospice in the UK when he passed away.
His family released a statement to confirm his passing to BBC, which read: “It is with great sadness to announce that Len Goodman has passed away peacefully, aged 78.”
“A much loved husband, father and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends and all who knew him,” it concluded.
Len passed away just three days short of his 79th birthday with his death prompting an outpouring of tributes at the time to commend the star of stage and screen on his incredible career.
Apart from DWTS, Len also served as a head judge on Strictly Come Dancing — the original U.K. version of the ABC hit — from 2004 to 2016.
Elsewhere, Len, who previously battled prostate cancer in 2009 and skin cancer in 2020, devoted his spare time to his dance school, Goodman Dance Academy, which he opened in Kent, England.
Dancing With The Stars season 32 premieres September 26 on ABC and Disney+.