Dave Ravenhill, who played for the Victoria Vistas of the original professional Canadian Soccer League, died of a heart attack after a run Monday at age 57.
“Whenever we played the Vancouver 86ers, Edmonton Brickmen or Toronto Blizzard, [Vistas head coach] Bruce Wilson would match Dave up against their best players,” said former Vistas teammate Frank Woods.
The Vistas roster included local players such as Ian Bridge and George Pakos, who both represented Canada in the 1986 World Cup, but Woods said Ravenhill held his own against anybody.
“Dave Ravenhill was the fittest player on the pitch. He led the Vistas in minutes played. Everybody wanted to have Dave playing alongside them,” said Woods.
Ravenhill also helped lead Gorge FC to three Province Cup titles.
“He didn’t turn pro until 27. And later he won the VISL [Vancouver Island Soccer League] scoring championship at age 39 [with 32 goals in 18 games, none on penalty kicks]. Think about that,” said Woods.
“He was the classic late bloomer and played VISL Div. 1 until age 40. He recorded a 7.5 on the beep test at age 55 running backwards. He was the standard for fitness, which makes his death at his age of a heart attack harder to process.”
Ravenhill was on the Island select teams that played Chelsea and Dundee United.
“Dundee United coach Paul Sturrock said if Dave had grown up in Britain, he would have been a pro soccer player up to [near or Premiership level],” said Woods, who was also on those Island Select teams.
“Dave was a huge Liverpool fan and went to Anfield many times and even scrimmaged with some of the players and has several signed Liverpool jerseys.”
Ravenhill played for the University of Victoria, leading to a two-generation family connection, and he treasured being in the Centennial Stadium stands watching son Adam Ravenhill captain the Vikes and his other son, Andrew Ravenhill, win a U Sports national title with the Vikes. UVic head coach and former Canada World Cup captain Wilson has a cherished picture in his office of all three Ravenhills posing together.
The family’s connections run deep in Victoria. Dave’s brother, Mike Ravenhill, is CEO of the David Foster Foundation.
Dave Ravenhill also left a lasting legacy on soccer at the administrative and coaching levels. He was the teacher/co-ordinator and a coach in the Reynolds Secondary soccer academy. Ravenhill, also current U-17 and U-18 coach of the elite Vancouver Island Wave, had been at Reynolds since 1990.
“The tributes are just pouring in from his former students and players,” said Woods. “It’s like Mr. Holland’s Opus. Dave was so well regarded and respected. He was a quality individual and people are reacting to that.”
Ravenhill was also co-coach of Bays United of the VISL. In a sort of soccer version of the Howe hockey family, Ravenhill suited up at age 54 under special permit to play a VISL Div. 1 game with his son Adam, and the elder Ravenhill scored the winning goal for Bays against Sooke.
“From UVic to pro soccer with the Vistas to Vic West and Province Cup championships with Gorge FC in VISL, and to the Reynolds soccer academy, Dave did it all. And he gained the respect of everybody while doing it” said fellow Bays co-coach Rich Fast.
Ravenhill’s final honour was being awarded the VISL President’s Cup in 2019 for outstanding career contributions to the league.
“That is our highest award — George Pakos was our first recipient in 2000 — and Dave Ravenhill our most recent,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.
“Dave was valued so much in the soccer community. Everything he did was for the betterment of Island soccer.”
Ravenhill is survived by wife Karen and sons Adam and Andrew.