The Vancouver Island Raiders are based in Nanaimo, BC and joined the BC Conference of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) in 2005. It essentially was awarded the franchise that had belonged to the Abbotsford Air Force, which had disbanded following the 2004 season. In their very first campaign the Raiders finished with an incredible 8-2 record, but lost in the semi-finals.
In the 15 years the franchise has existed, the Raiders have remarkably not only won eight BC Conference titles but three Canadian Bowls as well, having beaten the Edmonton Wildcats (2006 & 2009) twice and the Burlington Braves (2008). Both wins over the Wildcats were claimed at home at Caledonia Park, while their other championship was captured in Burlington, Ontario. Winning three titles in four seasons displays just how dominate the team was during that run and represents the greatest moments in the team’s history.
The Raiders path to the 2008 championship took them to Saskatoon where they beat the Hilltops and to this day still represent the only time a team from BC has beaten the Hilltops in Saskatchewan in a playoff game since the late 1940s.
In addition to their three Canadian titles, the Raiders have also appeared in another two championship games (2010 & 2013) and three national semi-final games.
In 2017 the Raiders received an honour no other BC Conference team has had; inducted into the BC Football Hall of Fame for their outstanding success on the field.
For a team/organization that has only been in existence for 15 years, these are remarkable accolades. Overall the Raiders record following the 2019 season reads 155-32-3. In the playoffs, the team’s record is 18-7; with eight Conference championships and on the national stage they are a combined 6-4 with those three Canadian Bowl rings.
Along with their winning tradition, the Raiders have been a leader in bringing forward ideas such as a scholarship program for players continuing education and pioneering the streaming of its games over the internet. Most teams across the CJFL have adopted one or both of these ideas after seeing the success in Nanaimo.
When discussing the Raiders alumni, the first name that always comes to mind is Andrew Harris, who has gone on to enjoy a great career in the CFL with both the BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Harris still holds the CJFL record for highest rushing average in a career at 9.9 yards a carry, highest average in a season when he averaged 14.5 yards a carry in 2009 and most rushing touchdowns in a career with 54. He’s second in career rushing yards with 4,133 from 2005-2009.
In addition to Harris, a large number of Raiders alum have gone onto to play at the University level as well as the CFL. These include: Jordan Yantz, Lorne Plante, Curtis Vizza, Andrew Smith, Whitman Tomusiak, Joe Lipinski, Ryan Wellman, Brian Ridgeway and Robin Medeiros.
The Raiders are hoping for a new home in 2021 and are slated to play on the field turf of NDSS Field in Nanaimo, with a new 7,000 seat facility scheduled to be built around the field. Most teams in the BC Conference will be pleased not to play at Caledonia Park, a near impossible place to win for opposing teams.
Quick Raiders Facts:
Conference – BC Conference
Location – 110 Wall St, Nanaimo, BC
Raiders President – Kabel Atwall
Head Coach – Curtis Vizza
Stadium – Caledonia Park
Social Handle - @VIRaiders / @vi.raiders
Primary Colours – Black, Red, White