I is for Ian, as in Ian Mendes, Sportsnet's Ottawa correspondent. Mendes has been working the Ottawa sports scene since the mid-1990s, when he became a co-host for a sports show on a Carleton campus radio program. From such humble beginnings, he moved on to work in the PR department of the Ottawa Lynx, which included such duties as pulling the tarp during rain delays and twice dressing as Lenny The Lynx (oh the joys of minor league baseball).
Eventually Mendes ended up in the Senators PR department. Writing press releases and travelling with the team, Mendes was still able to call Ottawa Lynx games during the summer months. In 2001, Mendes got an opportunity to join the Sportsnet team. While leaving an NHL team was difficult, ultimately, journalism won out.
One of Mendes' most controversial moments as a Senators reporter was a 2006 blog entry he penned in which he suggested Ottawa had the worst sports fans in the country - while not directed at the many die-hard fans in the city, it seemed to only have been read by die-hards who did not appreciate the editorial.
However, one of the things I like about Mendes is his readiness to admit when he is wrong. He was open to the criticism he received and even poked fun at himself four years later. He has a refreshing sense of humour that isn’t always present in mainstream sports reporters.
In fact, Mendes represents a welcomed middle ground in the debate between mainstream media and the blogging world. Even as the Senators reach out to blogs like Silver Seven and the 6th Sens, a large divide remains. While many in the msm remain hostile to bloggers and vice versa, Mendes seems to welcome input from all sources. He participates in discussions on twitter with msm personalities and bloggers alike, and doesn’t resort to blocking those who simply don’t agree with him. While mainstream reporters and bloggers are not providing the same services to their followers, they are working in the same arena, so to speak. Mendes’ experiences as an independent radio host, a team PR guy, and commentator with a major broadcaster help him work with both teams (msm and bloggers).
Finally, Mendes is one of the few mainstream voices not only writing about the Sens, but occasionally defending our team. The example that sticks out in my mind is the Andy Sutton "Are You an Expert?" case. Sutton ended up on the wrong end of many jokes because of his post-game sound bite, but Mendes went to bat for Sutton. Mendes defends the hit, but more importantly, he stands up for a player he feels is being incorrectly characterized in the sound bite and antagonized by another member of the media. He doesn’t throw the reporter under the bus, but he does illustrate what the reporter did wrong and makes sure Sutton’s case is made. When so many media personalities talk about the Senators and don’t seem to know anything about them (Erik Karlsson for the Calder this year anyone?), it’s nice to have someone defend the home team. While many still remember the "worst sports town" post, it’s Mendes’ ability to be a critical and supporting voice in equal measure that make him a valuable part of any Senators’ fan experience.
- Mendes, Ian. "Ian Mendes Bio," available here.