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

Just Posted

Severe storm warning remains in effect for the Kootenays

Two special weather statements have been issued for the West Kootenay

Update: Suspect in Montrose gas station stabbing new to the area

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

Trail family rallies for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert.”

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

RDKB launches survey to address housing needs in the district

Communities in the district include Trail, Grand Forks, Rossland and Fruitvale

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Most Read