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.

Just Posted

Castor Minor Sports is hosting a ‘Battle of Alberta’ NHL Alumni game on March 29th, 2020

Eleven community members per team will skate side by side with NHL veterans

Stettler Elementary School Show Choir off to a strong start this fall

The only requirement is that students are willing to try their best and co-operate

Geordie Nelson signs on as the local federal Green candidate

Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21st

Sylvan Lake man charged with wife’s murder

Satnam Singh Sandhu, 41, will appear in Red Deer Provincial Court on Sept. 18

New fall festival set to take place mid-October

Family fun Oct. 12th at Stettler Ag grounds

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Judge finds Alberta couple not guilty in toddler son’s death

It was the second trial for the Stephans, who were found guilty by a jury in 2016

Alberta couple charged in toddler son’s death to learn fate from judge

David and Collet Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life

Alberta government pitching that small rural areas pay for policing: NDP

Those 291 districts represent about 20 per cent of the Alberta population

Alberta inquiry into oil and gas foes could face legal challenge from Ecojustice

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly accused U.S. charities of bankrolling efforts

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The report describes the occasion as an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed gala event

‘Troubling, insulting’: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts to Trudeau’s brownface photo

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, responded with a call for love after Trudeau photos surface

VIDEO: Party leaders react to Trudeau’s brownface photo bombshell

Fallout from Justin Trudeau’s brownface photo, and two other instances, sure to dominate campaign

Most Read