Story by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The B.C. Football Hall of Fame announced their 2018 inductees on Friday afternoon at the B.C. Lions practice facility in Surrey. The BCFHOF was founded in 2008 after the passing of Bob Ackles, a man who spent over fifty years working in professional football while establishing himself as a legend in the B.C. football community. Bob’s son Scott, who serves as the president of the BCFHOF, announced the Hall of Fame class of 2018 which will formally be inducted during half-time of the B.C. Lions November 3rd clash with the Calgary Stampeders. Included in the class of 2018 will be the Vancouver Island Raiders, a team that once dominated junior football not only in British Columbia but the entire country.
“The Special Award is a special recognition award that is presented from time to time, and does not occur every year,” said the chairman of the board Scott Ackles. “It’s presented to an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution to football in British Columbia who would not otherwise qualify for induction into the B.C. Football Hall of Fame.”
Founded in 2005 by team owner Hadi Abassi, the Vancouver Island Raiders changed the entire landscape of junior football in Canada when they would go on an unbelievable run from 2006 to 2013 that saw them capture three national championships while winning the B.C. league championships seven out of the eight years.
“The recipient of The Special Award must exemplify great character and dedication, and provide inspiration to present and future generations,” added Ackles. “This years recipient are the Vancouver Island Raiders.”
To this date, the Raiders win over the Edmonton Wildcats in the 2009 Canadian Bowl stands as the last time a team from British Columbia has been able to capture the national championship. After the announcement I had the opportunity to speak with Raiders’ owner Hadi Abassi and current team president Kabel Atwall, about just what the honour means to the Raiders organization.
“It’s unbelievable,” said team president Atwall. “We never thought wed get nominated for something like this, it’s recognition of all of the vision this man(Abassi) has.”
Based in Nanaimo, the Raiders joined the BCFC in 2005 and their impact was immediate. In their very first year of competitive play the Raiders would win the league championship, after compiling a terrific debut campaign that saw them go 8-2 on the year. Just a year later in 2006, the Raiders would win their first ever Canadian Bowl national championship, being the first B.C. junior team to accomplish the feat in six years. This would be cited by team owner Hadi Abassi as one of his favourite memories to reflect on.
“We kicked the field goal in the last second and won our first ever Canadian championship, that one’s still in my brain.” said team owner Abassi. “That was amazing for the team, and for Nanaimo.”
Aside from their amazing run that began in the mid 2000’s, the Vancouver Island Raiders have also produced their fair share of future football stars, including Winnipeg Bluebomber and former B.C. Lion Andrew Harris. While many have gone on to play in Canadian university sports, many used their time with the Raiders to grow as people and have gone on to be successful in many different ways.
“When we see our alumni and how they’ve gotten on with life beyond football.” said the current Raiders president Atwall. “Football was a great avenue for them to express themselves as men.”
Along with the Vancouver Island Raiders, the other inductees whom will be inducted on November 3rd at B.C. place will be as follows:
Nick Hebeler, Defensive End, Career 79-85 – Won Grey Cup in 1985
Mike Cacic, Defensive Lineman, Career 57-67 – Apart of Lions first ever Grey Cup victory in 1964
Rick Klassen, Defensive End, Career 81-87, 88-90 – Won Grey Cup in 1985
John Beaton, Defensive Back, Career 73-80 – Won Grey Cup in 1975 & 1977
JR Davies, QB, Career 01-04 – Won Canada West title with SFU in 2003
Akbal Singh, Running Back – Won Vanier Cup with UBC in 1997, Canada West all-star in 1998 and a back-to-back All-Canadian in 1998 and 1999
Don Berger – Former director & president of North Delta Football League
Bob DeJulius – Educator and former SFU head coach
Dave Ritchie – Former CFL coach
1968 Notre Dame Jugglers – 14 provincial titles between 1968 and 1993
CFL Bob Ackles Award: