By Gordon Kent Edmonton Journal
Despite the hard work and long hours he put in at numerous stations — his final position was general manager of The Bear, 104-9 Virgin Radio and TSN 1260 for Bell Media in Edmonton — Cardinal never saw his work as just a job.
“Most people in the radio business get the radio bug. Once you have it, it’s something you’re passionate about your whole life,” colleague and longtime friend Ross Winters says.
“He loved every aspect of it … Once it’s in your blood, it’s not really a job. It’s kind of a hobby you’re paid for.”
Cardinal, who died of pancreatic cancer April 19 at age 54, recorded himself on cassette as a kid and joined his high school radio club before taking his first paying on-air job in 1979 with CJRL in Kenora, Ont.
That led to positions in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Hamilton, Edmonton and Toronto as he rose into senior management,
Winters describes him as the life of the party, someone happy to be on the giving or receiving end of a practical joke, a boss for whom people liked to work.
“The job is to get good ratings for the radio station and to lead in certain demographics in a market. He had a good vision for what that would take. He wasn’t afraid to take risks.”
One of those risks was bringing American shock-jock Howard Stern’s show to Toronto’s Q107 in 1997.
The high-profile move paid off with soaring ratings. To control what went on the air from the controversial New Yorker, Winters says Cardinal had a producer edit Stern’s unacceptable bits.
Another successful move was helping launch JACK FM in Vancouver, a popular “adult hits” format now licensed in dozens of locations in North America and Europe.
“A lot of people in the industry thought this was another fad, but it came out of the box No. 1 in just about every demographic,” says Jim JJ Johnston, who knew Cardinal from the time they worked for opposing Winnipeg radio stations in the early 1980s.
“He was a master programmer.”
He calls his friend a maverick who lived and breathed the business, enjoying friendly arguments about what worked and what didn’t.
“He wanted to do things his own way, do them fast and get it done, not unlike a lot of us guys,” Johnston says.
“Most of Pat’s friends were radio people. He loved to talk radio, the characters in radio, the formats, the technology.”
He also loved to travel, flying to Los Angeles or elsewhere to hear what was going out over the airwaves in the days before streaming audio.
In 2008, he became operations manager for Newcap Radio Group Edmonton, later taking over as program manager for Newcap Alberta.
He was named general manager in 2011 of Astral Radio’s Edmonton stations, now owned by Bell Media.
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. For about the last year he was off work to battle the disease, moving to Vancouver to be near friends and family, including son Kael, his only child.
Cardinal survived far longer than doctors expected and did his best to make that time count.
“He would be on a plane to New York or on a plane to Boston or Chicago or Toronto regularly to see his friends,” Johnston says.
“If you’re having a golf trip, Pat would be the first guy to go.”
As he lay in a hospital bed on what turned out to be the last full day of his life, about 25 people close to him took part in a conference call.
Once all the greetings were over, they came to the point — he’ll be inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame May 5 during Canadian Music Week celebrations in Toronto.
“Pat just completely lost it. There’s not a dry eye that watched … It meant a lot to him,” Johnston says.
“We’re all so happy we got to him by the time we did. We gave him the best send-off anybody could ever have … The funniest part is, after he collected himself, he says ‘Now I’m going to have to figure how to get the (obscenity) to Toronto.’ ”
Cardinal died the next day, his two ex-wives and his son among the people by his side.