From radio newbie to veteran entertainer
By Geoff Kirbyson
The last four years have been a blur for Andrew Paterson.
The man known in Winnipeg sports circles as “Hustler,” has been on a whirlwind ride since taking the radio act he shares with Free Press sports columnist Gary Lawless from CJOB to Sports Radio 1290 in February, 2011.
Although the jump seems like a no-brainer now, it wasn’t then because the station that became TSN 1290 had an almost negligible ratings share – on the backs of mostly-canned ESPN programming – in March 2011.
Two months later, “Hustler and Lawless” was the go-to radio show for perhaps the greatest day in the city’s sporting history when the NHL returned to Winnipeg. Shortly after that, it was the drive-home show on the new broadcast home of the Jets.
Paterson describes their leap of faith as “a calculated gamble.”
“I’d like to tell you we knew all along for sure the NHL was coming back and for sure the station would be rebranded TSN, but I’d be lying. Did we think it was a possibility? Sure. I just pinch myself when I think about it,” he says.
Sports fans who tuned out while the NHL was gone for 15 years may wonder how Paterson became one of the city’s best-known sports personalities, but his emergence was out of anything but obscurity.
He worked briefly for the original Winnipeg Jets before moving over to True North Sports & Entertainment when they owned and operated the Moose. The life-long Winnipegger has also worked for Hockey
Canada and Bison Sports at the University of Manitoba.
“I knew a million people from going out and being me. I knew half the city. I wasn’t married, I hadn’t vanished from my friends,” he says.
It all began several years ago when he offered to help out his friend, Rob Zyluk, who was working on an NFL show to promote the Sunday Ticket product on Shaw TV.
Much to their delight, all the talk about betting and fantasy football struck a chord with local gridiron fans. It also caught the attention of the people at FREQ 107, who called him and asked if he would do Olympic updates during the Turino Olympics in 2006.
Of course, he was in.
That morphed into the Hustler Sports Report and then he was offered a 90-minute slot on Sunday mornings. The station couldn’t pay him or Lawless but with Paterson’s background in corporate sponsorship, he was free to bring a couple of sponsors on board so that they’d get paid.
“Even if we didn’t have any sponsors, it sounded fun, other than having to get up earlier than I would on Sunday and be presentable,” he says.
On the first show that he and Lawless did together, they interviewed the Free Press’s Tim Campbell live from Augusta at a little tournament called The Masters
“We thought, ‘maybe we can do it,’” he says.
Oh wait, the nickname. Paterson is quick to note his moniker has absolutely nothing to do with any magazines published by Larry Flint. Instead, his high school buddy, Evan Mancer, coined it many years ago – with much irony in mind – when he’d have a few friends over while his parents were out of town to shoot pool and have a few beers.
“I was a scratch machine,” Paterson says with a laugh.
“I used to call in to Tom and Larry’s radio show and everybody had a nickname. ‘It’s cue ball, corner pocket. It’s the Hustler.’ With a handle like that, you have to be prepared.”
Paterson admits he was in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions. When he decided he wanted to give sports broadcasting a shot, he thought about going to journalism school but opted against it because he’d only be working towards an internship where he’d be doing, well, what he was already doing.
Despite their long-time partnership, Paterson isn’t joined at the hip with Lawless. Two summers ago, TSN 1290 management offered him a one-hour slot on his own, called “The Warm Up,” leading into “H & L” at 3 p.m. every day.
“They wanted to give me this hour that was going to be an extension of my personality. The idea is to do more longer-form interviews and talk to people who aren’t the big stories of the day. It’s almost like hanging out in the Green Room before you do a show,” he says.
Now a radio veteran, Paterson admits that he’s in a “pretty good place” right now but he’s not about to take it for granted.
“The last couple of years for me, Gary and everybody at the station have been absolutely amazing. I realize every day that I’m lucky to do it. There are probably 20,000 guys that would like to take my job now. I take it seriously but I have a hell of a lot of fun doing it,” he says.