Ian Mendes is best known by Canadians for his coverage of the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Blue Jays on Sportsnet. We sat down with him to talk about life with his two young daughters, Elissa, 7, and Lily, 4, and his wife, Sonia, and what it’s like to be a devoted dad juggling a busy career with family life.
Emily Sadler: You’re away a lot, especially during hockey season. How do you fit your family life in?
Ian Mendes: I’m not going to lie to you, it’s really difficult. The part that’s really challenging is when [I’m] away for large stretches and so much pressure is on Sonia to do everything. It’s all on Sonia, and here I am, like, “I’m in Pittsburgh, how are things with the kids?”
ES: Do they think it’s cool that you’re on TV?
IM: I think in the beginning they used to think it was really cool, and now they’re like, “Yeah, can we just put Phineas and Ferb on?” Not to mention, they have absolutely no interest in sports.
ES: So what are they interested in right now?
IM: Animals. Our kids are obsessed with stuffed animals. But their collection is so big now, that – it’s unbelievable – their needs are so specific. Even now, on this trip here [to Toronto], Lily gets on the phone (and she’s not even four) and she’s like, “Dad, can you grab me a Komodo dragon? I need a daddy Komodo dragon. I have a mommy Komodo dragon, so I need a daddy one.”
ES: When you’re at home, how do you give Sonia a break?
IM: This is going to come off as me trying to look like the good guy, but if I’m going away for say, a week, I’ll try really hard, the day before I leave, to cook a bunch of meals for the week. I know it’s really tough, even just to trying to cook a meal when you’ve got two kids all over you!
ES: Dinnertime is a stressful time for parents, eh?
IM: It’s a gong show!
ES: What’s your favourite meal to cook for your family?
IM: They’ve actually really been into fish lately, like cod or tilapia or mahi-mahi. It’s so funny, I bought Elissa this almanac – she’s just into anything to do with animals – and she read that certain types of mahi-mahi are endangered. So every time I come home with mahi-mahi, she’s like, “Is this Atlantic mahi-mahi, or Pacific?”
ES: Did you ever expect to have two girls?
IM: I guess if you told me, before I had kids, what I expected, I’d think, “We’re going to have two kids; one will be a boy, one will be a girl. The boy will be a big Dallas Cowboys fan and the daughter will play with princesses and off we go.” It’s amazing, ‘cause it’s like, suddenly you’re sitting there having a tea party and that’s something you never thought you’d do, and you’re like, “This is great.” But I’ve never worn a tiara – let me just make that very clear.
ES: OK, duly noted. When you’re interviewing athletes, especially hockey players who are also dads, do you ever talk about that?
IM: Yeah, for sure. It’s a great way to connect with people. You take away the façade of, “I’m a reporter, you’re an athlete.” … It’s neat to see NHL players … be just regular family guys and get really excited about having kids. You realize that they’re just regular guys who are just really good at hockey!