Matt Ravlich, who left the Sault to play hockey very early on in his teenage years was a driving force when it came to playing defence, something he wasn’t originally posted to.
Ravlich was on of many of the young men that Angelo Bumbacco scouted out of the Sault early on. He sent Ravlich to the Chicago Blackhawks. This was in the days when players were able to move up simply because they were on a team sponsored by an NHL club. And that sponsorship went all the way down to midget.
Ravlich, along with Gene Diotte and Alfie Coletti left the Sault in the 50s. They ended up playing Junior B in Woodstock. Matt moved up to Junior A with the St. Catherine’s Teepees. He finished fourth in scoring as a left winger. He played three seasons with them and in 1957-58 he scored an amazing 38 goals and 35 assists in just 49 games.
Chicago then sent him to the Trois-Rivieres Lions in the Quebec League for a year. There he scored 14 goals and made 31 assists in just 61 games. That was the year he also came back to the Sault to play for the Thunderbirds. That’s where the change happened that would start his career.
Ravlich was converted to defence by Billy Reay who was the head coach. That brought him to the NHL where the Blackhawks needed a strong defenceman. He stayed there for seven year including 1966-67 season where the team finished first, 17 points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. Playing alongside Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita must have been a dream. Even young Phil Esposito finished seventh in scoring for the team.
That was the last year of the original six teams and Ravlich finished fifth in balloting for the All-Star Team by the half-season mark.
On the last day of the season Ravlich broke his leg and sadly had to miss the rest of the next season. That’s when he got tossed around for a while, finishing a year in Chicago, a year with the Detroit Red Wings, a year with the Los Angeles Kings and came to be a linemate with Bobby Orr in Boston.
But sadly, he would never be able to reach his goals set in Chicago because of the chronic uneasiness because of that broken leg years earlier.
His last year was with the Boston Braves as a player-coach in 1973-74. The next year the team folded for an amalgamation with Rochester. Ravlich was offered the coaching position but turned it down to go into business in Boston.
A young Don Cherry was hired as coach and Ravlich left the hockey world behind.