CARDINAL, Patrick John
May 25, 1961 – April 19, 2016
Canadian broadcasting has lost one of its most influential thinkers/obsessives: Patrick Cardinal, a radio geek from childhood who never lost the passion as he climbed the corporate ladder and crisscrossed the country, died this week in Vancouver.
Patrick, Pat, Patty, Dad – father to Kael, brother to Jeff – was loved by so many.
Born in Winnipeg, Pat grew up all over the place, including Germany, Italy, Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay and Edmonton – with father Rene, mother Penny and little brother (by just under one year) Jeff. Pat caught the travel bug early – and never lost it.
Summers were spent in Ontario at the cabin at Hawk Lake and at Willard Lake, where his grandparents owned a fishing camp.
Pat’s teen years were mostly about Air Cadets, which helped shape the leader and person he would become. He started at 12 in Thunder Bay, and upon moving to Edmonton at 13, joined 12 Squadron with new school chum Blake Dean, who became a lifelong friend. Pat became squadron leader within two years, remarkably achieving the title of Warrant Officer before he was 16.
Pat’s other obsession growing up, which he would turn into a career, was radio. As a child, he spent his allowance on records – The Guess Who’s American Woman was his first purchase. By the time he was 12, he was recording himself on cassette. He joined the high school radio club, broadcasting at lunchtime. At night, he would lie in his room and tune the radio to far-away places on the AM dial – especially WLS in Chicago.
In 1979, Patrick turned his passion into a paycheque, landing his first job at CJRL in Kenora, as “The Brave Stranger.” A summer gig turned into full time work. In 1981, he moved to CFRW in Winnipeg – initially as Brad Wilson; after a format change he became … Pat Cardinal. His career took him to 1040 Kicks and LG73 in Vancouver, then Hamilton, where he launched K-Lite FM, Edmonton for Power 92, and Toronto where he brought the Howard Stern Show to Q107. He helped launch JACK FM in Vancouver and then Toronto. In 2008 he became Operations Manager for Newcap Radio’s Edmonton stations and later Alberta Program and Operations Manager. In 2011, he became GM for Astral’s Edmonton radio stations, now owned by Bell Media.
Over the years, he learned from mentors including Brad Phillips, Howard Kroeger, Jim “JJ” Johnson, Doug Rutherford, Gary Slaight and the late Bob Laine – and in turn mentored countless others.
Radio was not just a job for Patrick. He loved driving and punching around the dial, especially on road trips – where he could listen to radio in other markets. A favourite game was driving around, listening to song intros, trying to hit the post.
Pat was an early Internet adopter, lover of films (especially The Godfather), reader of maps and a world traveller. Berlin, New York and L.A. were favourite destinations. He loved watching (and playing) golf, and playing video games with Kael.
Kael was born in 1989 – Patrick’s son with then-partner Natalie. Kael was the most important person in Patrick’s life. He took huge pride in Kael’s intelligence, kindness and achievements. His final words were “I love you, son.”
In 2014, Patrick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He fought it like a warrior and outlived predictions. He travelled, golfed with buddies, spent time with Kael and continued to obsess over ratings and other radio goings-on. Sunday dinners at Lorne and Joanne’s were a weekly, grounding highlight.
The support he received from friends through this time has been enormous – especially from former wife Kathy, Natalie and Rob, Chris, Lorne, Joanne and Richard – almost nightly visitors, Mark Pooley, Dan Lak, Vinka, Tamara, Marsha, Steve Jones and too many others to list. Every single visitor meant the world to Pat. In Toronto, Warren kept others in the industry informed about how Pat was doing.
Kael, Jeff and his wife Barb, Kathy and Auntie Mary went over and above, staying with Patrick to look after him. Special thanks to the wonderful Dr. Daniel Renouf and the caring staff at the Vancouver General Hospital palliative care unit.
At home and at VGH, Patrick hosted a steady stream of visitors, many of whom travelled from out of town to see him. He held a party, which got a bit too rowdy for the palliative unit (where the staff were remarkable and kind). He made appointments on his laptop, scheduling people in. Many had booked plane tickets for pending visits. Pat’s final outing was Tuesday afternoon – Starbucks for a latte.
He died Tuesday night in his room with a view at VGH, holding Kael’s hand and surrounded by friends – including two of his exes, which says a lot about him. AC/DC was playing softly in the background.
Patrick is survived by son Kael, brother Jeff and his wife Barb, nephew Scott and niece Krystal, Auntie Mary, cousins Allan (Tricia) and Laura and their children, Uncle George (Josie) and cousin Stephen, Aunt Margaret (Morris) and cousins Beverly, Doug and Barb; cousins Rob, Barry, Jamie, Michelle, extended family and so many friends. Predeceased by parents Penny and Rene, beloved grandparents, Uncle Mike, Uncle Bob and cousin David.
On the last full day of his life, Patrick learned that he would be inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame during Canadian Music Week in May. He was on a conference call with more than 20 people across North America when he received the news. “Thank you so much,” he said, deeply emotional. “I’m overwhelmed.”
A celebration of Pat’s life will be held in Toronto at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the cancer charity of your choice.
Published in The Edmonton Journal and The Globe & Mail on April 23, 2016
Life & Times: Edmonton radio executive Patrick Cardinal lived a life full of friends
Published on: April 29, 2016
Last Updated: May 1, 2016 9:12 AM MDT
Patrick Cardinal, 1961 – 2016
Patrick Cardinal turned a childhood fascination with radio into a successful cross-Canada career that will culminate with a posthumous induction into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Hall of Fame.
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.
Patrick Cardinal, on the right, in hospital with his son Kael.
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.
Tait on Eight
Cam Tait: Patrick Cardinal ruled the airwaves
By Cam Tait
First posted: Sunday, April 24, 2016 03:59 PM MDT
Updated: Sunday, April 24, 2016 04:15 PM MDT
We never listened to Pat Cardinal’s voice on the radio in Edmonton, but we heard his broadcasting brilliance and creativity through others.
Pat died at the age of 54 in Vancouver Tuesday night after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago.
His first connection to Edmonton was in the early 1990s, when he was program director of Power 92, now Fresh Radio 92.5. Rob Christie and Audie Lynds were the morning show co-hosts on Power 92.
The show became No. 1 in Edmonton. Christie said under Pat’s direction, Rob and Audie in the Morning was nominated for the best humour and comedy show at the International Radio Festival in New York.
“After a couple of tries, we eventually won the gold medal,” said Christie, adding Power 92 is still the only Canadian radio station to capture the prestigious honour.
“One of my best memories of Pat is walking through Central Park in New York after lunch at Tavern on the Green and looking forward to the award show that night in Manhattan,” said Christie. “Pat was there with the programming and promotional support that enabled our show to be recognized on the world stage.”
In 1994, Christie left Edmonton for Toronto, before going to Vancouver. He came back to Edmonton and worked for Magic 99.3 FM, before being re-united with Cardinal and Lynds again in 2008 — this time at 96.3 Capital FM.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for Audie and I to reunite,” said Christie who is still working the morning show on Capital FM with Audie.
“He was a real student of the craft (in radio). That is becoming a rare quality. He knew everything there was to know about radio, from programming and promotions, to music and marketing. He knew the importance of knowing everyone in the business, and had a contact list that was the envy of every broadcast executive in Canada.”
After programming Newcap Radio’s Capital FM and K-97, he became general manager of three Edmonton radio stations owned by Bell Media — 100.3 The Bear, 104.9 Virgin Radio and TSN 1260.
Edmonton Sun Page 6 columnist Marty Forbes met Pat in the 1980s, when the two were competing radio programmers. When Forbes retired from Bell Media, Cardinal took his job.
“The nice part, for me, was when he ended up sitting in the office that I held for 18 years here in Edmonton after I retired,” said Marty. “So obviously, it was a nice connection and pleased that he got to fulfil his dream of becoming a GM in the radio business.
During one of his last days alive, Cardinal found out he is going into the Canadian Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame, where he will be posthumously inducted May 5 in Toronto.
A Winnipeg native, he began his radio career in 1979 as an announcer at CJRL in Kenora, Ont. After being behind microphones as an announcer, he had various programming jobs in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.
How are people remembering him?
We’ll leave that to Christie.
“When I think of Pat Cardinal, I am reminded of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote: ‘In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.’ ”
(Cam Tait is the special projects advisor for Challenge Insurance.)