Ian Mendes is well known to sports fans throughout the city for the many years he has spent covering the Ottawa Senators, first as a longtime TV broadcaster and, more recently, as the popular co-host of The Drive on TSN Radio 1200. And while sports analysis dominates Ian’s professional life, he is also a dedicated community volunteer, someone who lends his time, energy, professional emcee abilities and social media following to help non-profit organizations in Ottawa raise money and awareness.
And Ian doesn’t do it alone. He and his wife, Sonia, are raising the next generation of volunteers, taking their daughters with them as they give back to the community in various ways, helping to show them that a solid, healthy city is built by working together to make life better for others. Ian Mendes never hesitates to step forward and make a positive difference, and for that, he is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa. Here, he answers the questionnaire:
What makes Ottawa special to you?
I came to this city as a 17-year-old kid who had aspirations of becoming a sports journalist by enrolling in the journalism program at Carleton. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would still be here more than 20 years later – with a wife, two kids and an amazing connection to this city. I may have been born in Mississauga, grown up in Vancouver, but Ottawa will always home for me.
What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?
I love the fact that Ottawa is a big city, but maintains a real small-town feel. I’ve spent time in virtually every big city in North America and I can honestly say that Ottawa is probably the best place to raise a family. We have this cool mixture of big-city amenities, coupled with the feeling that our city is really safe.
From a work perspective, I thoroughly enjoy the ability to cover an NHL hockey team in a passionate Canadian market. It makes your work feel that much more important. While the weather would probably be better in a place like South Florida or California, I couldn’t imagine being an NHL reporter outside of a Canadian market like Ottawa.
The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?
It’s really important for me to use my media platform to help make our community a better place. Every week we’ve got tens of thousands people listening to us on the radio, plus I have a pretty decent-sized social media following. If I don’t use those platforms to help make our city better, then what’s the point? If you’ve got the opportunity to reach people with a positive message, then you should absolutely do it as much as possible.
You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?
There are a bunch of things I try and do in the community on a regular basis. One thing I always emphasize is that when I’m hosting any sort of charitable event, I will never, ever ask for a payment or a fee for my services. It’s an honor to be able to use my skillset as a professional broadcaster to work as an emcee or host for a charitable organization. So to me, it’s counterproductive to ask for a fee from a charity for my services because that doesn’t count as charity work in my eyes.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed is helping to serve as the annual emcee for the Capital City Condors golf tournament. Those kids are truly inspirational and any chance I have to help them out is an absolute privilege for me.
I also make sure I take every opportunity to help out in any initiative involving CHEO, since our daughter underwent brain surgery there as a newborn. One thing we’re really focused on now is trying to do some behind-the-scenes volunteer work with our kids (aged 13 and 10) so that they can understand the importance of volunteering and giving time in this community. I want our kids to understand that we don’t to charitable work to get recognition or social media likes; we do it because it’s the right thing to do. So I’m really going to focus on that moving forward. I also really enjoy doing regular visits to high schools and speaking to students about career choices and how to chase their ideal job.
What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?
My hope is that Ottawa continues to trend in this direction, where we are no longer thought of as a boring, government town. We have so many exciting new restaurants, bars and unique stores, that the perception of Ottawa is really changing. My hope is that we can continue to build on that and have our city defined by creativity and innovation – rather than be thought of us the town that fun forgot.