Rai is an Indo-Canadian of Sikh faith. He was born in Surrey, British Columbia in 1989, five years after his father, Harbhajan Rai (Bubby) represented Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympics in field hockey.
Rai began playing in the Surrey Minor Hockey Association at age 6 although he had never skated on ice before and had to use second-hand skates from his 10 year older cousin that were much larger than his feet. He developed and later tallied 96 points in bantam. His hockey hero was Pavel Bure, the 'Russian Rocket' and Rai's nickname was the 'Chocolate Rocket.' At age 13, Rai spent a year with the famed Notre Dame Hounds in Saskatchewan before returning to British Columbia to play alongside his brother Jas with the Junior B team Ridge Meadows Flames. Rai graduated from North Surrey Secondary School
After the WHL draft, Rai began his junior career with the Prince George Cougars in the 2005-06 season. After a season and a half with the Cougars, Rai requested a trade to garner more ice-time and was dealt mid-season to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
He played three and a half seasons with the Thunderbirds. He recorded 199 points in the 200 games after the first season. As a 20-year-old overage player, Rai recorded his best season in juniors in 2009-10, recording 69 points (41 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games. Rai finished the season as the Thunderbirds leading-scorer, the seventh-highest scorer in the league, and was named to the WHL West Second All-Star team.
The unranked Rai was the third selection by Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks' first-round pick was Cody Hodgson while they didn’t have third or fourth round picks due to complicated compensation for the signing of Manitoba Moose head coach Randy Carlyle by the Anaheim Ducks and a trade for Brent Sopel of the Los Angeles Kings.
A sportswriter with 'The Province' newspaper suggested Rai may be nicknamed the 'Surrey Sizzle' due to his speed. The selection of Rai raised hopes for 230,000 members of British Columbia's South Asian community that he may be the third South Asian (after former and future Canucks Robin Bawa and Manny Malhotra) to play in the NHL. He did claim to have heard racist 'trash talk' at times.
Rai signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks in March 2010. Three months afterwards, Rai and his mother were rear-ended while driving a new Mercedes-Benz CLS 500 across the Port Mann Bridge resulting in a back injury that prevented Rai from playing in the 2010-11 season.
Until reinvoking his injury, he was able to appear competitive with professionals and "a standout" at the 2010 Young Stars Tournament.
In 2010, Rai was diagnosed with colitis, an autoimmune disease. Rai returned to the sport in 2011-12 season, beginning his professional career in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings which finished first in the North Division and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. After another season in hiatus in 2013-14, Rai signed a standard player contract in the ECHL with the Stockton Thunder on November 4, 2014. Rai was later traded to Evansville and released after just three games. Rai played a total of 38 games for the Kalamazoo Wings, the Stockton Thunder, and the Evansville Icemen in the ECHL in three seasons.
After quitting hockey he ran a clothing company called Joseph Chanan.
WHL West Second All-Star Team (2009–10)