Detroit Red Wings fan and Yellowcard guitarist Ryan Mendez, like many fans who often have to travel extensively for business, looks forward to watching a Wings game as a way to relax and recharge. As part of a touring band that is often performing while the team is on the ice though, Mendez cannot just grab a glance at his cellphone to get a score update. Instead, he has to resort to unconventional measures at times.
“More than once I’ve resorted to having people from our crew or people from other bands … update me with scores between songs,” Mendez said of getting Wings scores during shows. “People will come up to the side of the stage and I’ll look over in between a song and they will show me the score or something. I get pretty creative because obviously I’m extremely die-hard about it.”
The above story brings to light just how much every fan is almost exactly the same regardless of their lifestyle. A successful musician with a well known group, Mendez feels the ups-and-downs of a long and grueling hockey season just like the college student, businessman or child. Born in Detroit but growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., Mendez developed his love for Detroit sports through a childhood spent going back and forth to-and-from Detroit to visit family.
“I went through phases when I would be in and out of sports in general, when I got into high school and became a teenager I sort-of swore off sports in general because I got into punk rock,” Mendez said of how he grew to love the Red Wings, but admits he still followed them despite his new music interests. “I still totally paid attention and was stoked when the Wings won their first championship in ’97 and again in ’98.”
A fan of Manchester City and the English Premiere League, as well as the NHL, Mendez is incredibly passionate when describing his love for the two games. He likens the styles of both sports and enjoys the way the two play out in front of him.
“I like the higher paced more intense sports. Soccer is actually my favorite sport, I grew up playing it my whole childhood and in high school and to me hockey and soccer are similar in a lot of ways,” Mendez says when describing why he gravitated towards hockey over the other major Detroit sports. “To me the two sports function so similarly … the general concept is so similar, a lot of the strategic concepts and the beauty involved in the games are so-so similar.”
With his Red Wings fandom ingrained in him, and obvious based on his Twitter (@RyanMendez) account and avatar, Mendez brings his love for them with him on the road touring. Yellowcard has completed several national and international tours over the last few years and have another one coming up this fall to support their acoustic release of the album “Ocean Avenue.” When away from home Mendez uses a multitude of ways to follow the team.
“Touring, the NHL is difficult to find on television, I wish they would go back to their contract with ESPN that they used to have, they rarely show any games on TV and it is the NBC Sports Network and [it] always seem[s] to be showing the [Pittsburgh] Penguins or the [Philadelphia] Flyers,” Mendez said of catching the team on the road. “Last season I got [NHL] GameCenter for the first time because it was super cheap because of the lockout and I’m just going to keep it.”
When traveling Mendez is able to separate work from the Red Wings, like most business professionals can. Despite that though, he admits during this year’s Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks, the Wings could not give him the pick-me-up he needed during a show that started with the airline losing their equipment. The trouble at the beginning of the series may have made the end so much more satisfying.
“The show ended up being just a total nightmare,” Mendez said. “Then in the middle of the show, our drum tech, who was with us at the time who is a massive hockey fan, … came up to me and just showed me his phone and I was like ‘dude, I didn’t need that right now’ … I specifically remember that moment which made it all that more sweet when we won the series.”
Yellowcard’s tour often takes them to enemy territory when it comes to the Red Wings. If the time and place is right, Mendez does not shy away from taking an opportunity to remind some of the Wings’ rivals about the organization’s success.
“There was a time, I think it was a show in January, I think we played the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, Pa, I think that it is where it was. I made some comments about hockey and the funny thing is, it is not in Philly or Pittsburgh so the crowd was evenly divided between Pens and Flyers fans,” Mendez said of the show in Pennsylvania. “I made several comments about the Penguins. Half the crowd booed and half the crowd cheered, it was pretty funny.”
Many in the country outside of major hockey epicenters like Detroit struggle to find fellow hockey fans to share their love of the game with them. Mendez can commiserate with the band’s lead singer, Ryan Key, who also spent time as a child in Detroit and is a Wings fan.
Mendez owns several Red Wings jerseys and is already in the possession of a Henrik Zetterberg Winter Classic jersey, which he cannot wait to wear to the Winter Classic in January. He has been in contact with the Wings organization and is trying to do something at the event. He doesn’t know what, but he would love to be involved. He even stated Yellowcard has been asked to play there, but does not know if it will happen.
“They asked me what the chances of something like that were and obviously I was unbelievably supportive, but that is not a decision I can make by myself,” Mendez said of the opportunity for him to play the Winter Classic. ”I basically directed them to the proper channels in terms of manager and booking agent and I have no idea if something like that would work out, but I’m sure if it could I know we would. I wouldn’t get my hopes up … but I know I’m going to try.”