Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) slam dunks the ball against the Indiana Pacers during second half round one NBA basketball playoff action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Dogs to Dinos: Toronto’s professional basketball roots run deep

Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors Thursday night

After arriving on the NBA scene in 1995, it took a few years before the Toronto Raptors settled into their current digs at the venue now known as Scotiabank Arena.

The team debuted on a makeshift court at SkyDome and even played a few home games at Maple Leaf Gardens and Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum before making the permanent move to Air Canada Centre.

However, it was in a compact, sweaty, brick-walled facility over a half-century earlier where the city’s pro basketball scene really started to take root.

A downtown Central YMCA gymnasium was a pre-season training base for players like Ed (Stretch) Sadowski, George Nostrand and Charles (Dutch) Hoefer as they prepared for the Toronto Huskies’ inaugural 1946-47 campaign.

The Huskies were charter members of the Basketball Association of America, which was renamed the National Basketball Association in 1949.

The team tipped off against the New York Knickerbockers on Nov. 1, 1946 at MLG, with Toronto dropping a 68-66 decision in front of 7,090 spectators. It would be one and done for the Huskies, who posted a 22-38 record that season before folding the next summer.

The sport was remarkably different back then.

There was no three-point line and slam dunks were illegal. Jump shots were a rarity and there was no shot clock.

The most expensive seat in the Gardens for the opening game cost $2.50. Any fan taller than the six-foot-10 Nostrand got in free.

Hockey, football and baseball were the popular pro sports in the city at the time. Circus-like descriptions were used to hype the arrival of professional basketball.

“See Toronto’s 240-Pound Panther Man Mountain Ed Sadowski And His Team of Fast-Moving Giants,” a promo read in the old Toronto Telegram newspaper.

Sadowski, who also handled coaching duties for part of the season, led all scorers with 18 points in the opening game. New York’s Dick Murphy hit a pair of late field goals to help put the Knicks over the top.

“New York Quintet Victor in Toronto,” a New York Times headline said the following day.

Forget about fancy stats. The game’s boxscore was an exercise in simplicity with three columns headed with the letters G, F, and P.

G was short for goal — as in field goal — while F was for free throws made and P was for points.

There was some Canadian content in the Toronto lineup that season.

READ MORE: Catch Toronto Raptors NBA playoff action on movie screens across Canada

Hank Biasatti, who was born in Italy but grew up in Windsor, Ont., was in the Game 1 lineup but didn’t score and was released a month later. Windsor native Gino Sovran played six games for the Huskies.

“The advertising before the game to try to draw basketball interest in Toronto was — and this is hard to believe — is it’s the fastest game in the world,” Sovran told the CBC in a 2016 interview. “Well you can’t convince hockey people that’s true.”

A six-foot-two swingman, Sovran was 21 when he made his debut in an 83-82 overtime win over the Boston Celtics.

He was inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Sovran, who was believed to be the last living Huskies player, died in June 2016.

The Raptors, who are facing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, have had some Huskies throwback nights over the years to honour the team’s legacy.

A Huskies hardcourt has been used on occasion and the team sometimes wears replica blue and white jerseys, with ‘Toronto’ in block letters and player numbers underneath. The throwback uniforms were used for the 1996 season opener against New York as part of the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Like the Huskies, the Warriors made their debut in 1946-47 although they called Philadelphia home.

Philadelphia would finish 35-25 and beat the St. Louis Bombers and the Knicks in the playoffs before topping the Chicago Stags in the final. The Warriors, who beat Toronto in five of six games in the regular season, moved to San Francisco in 1962.

The team was renamed the Golden State Warriors ahead of the 1971-72 season.

READ MORE: Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA finals

———

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

57 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Friday

Central zone remains at three active cases

Three people arrested after failed escape ends in farmer’s field

Cole Joseph Obdam facing numerous charges for incident with police

Red Deer remains at two active COVID-19 cases

Alberta confirms 94 new cases over past two days

Some Central Albertans calling for mask wearing to become mandatory

A family physician from Didsbury supports the Masks4Canada movement

Sylvan Lake pastor retiring after 43 years of service

Pastor Bill Spangler has been at Sylvan Lake Seventh-Day Adventist Church for six years

PODCAST: Black Lives Matter in central Alberta Part 2

More insight into the Black Lives Matter movement of central Alberta

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Most Read