Windsor

Before there were the Raptors, there were the Huskies: Windsor man remembers his father's time on the team

A Windsor man played for the Toronto Huskies — in the league which was the forerunner to the NBA. His son remembers his legacy.

'We knew it but we didn't appreciate it'

Gino Sovran was a member of the 1946 Toronto Huskies that played in the Basketball Association of America. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

If you weren't a basketball fan in May, you probably have been one in June — especially in Canada, where Toronto and the Raptors have become the epicentre of the surge of interest.

But before it was home to the Raptors, Toronto was home to the Huskies in 1946, in a league considered the forerunner to the modern National Basketball Association. 

Gino Sovran, a Windsor man who went to the University of Detroit, played for what was Canada's first pro-basketball team. 

His son Dan lives in Detroit, Mich. now, but has been cheering for the Raptors in the finals. He fondly remembered his father's love for basketball — even though the Huskies folded after just one season. 

"It wasn't like today," said Sovran about the time his father spent on the court. "They travelled by train and car. Most of the time they'd take a taxi over to Buffalo and then take the train to Boston or New York."

Sovran said his father made $500 a month playing basketball — a paycheque he wouldn't see again until he had a phd. 

"The skill level now is so much superior to what it was back then," said Sovran. "It was a much slower game."

In 2012, the Toronto Raptors invited Gino to a game, introducing him to the crowd at halftime and presenting him with a jersey. Sovran said his dad loved the experience.

"In the last ten years of his life, I got to spend quite a bit of time with him," said Sovran. 

Gino Sovran was inducted into the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, followed by the Windsor-Essex Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. (Windsor-Essex Sports Hall of Fame)

Gino first played basketball at Kennedy Collegiate Institute and then later at Assumption College. He was one of two Windsor men who played for the Toronto Huskies, who lost their first game. About 7,000 people were in the stands, but Sovran said attendance numbers fell after that. 

Sovran said his father would have been watching the series and cheering on the Raptors if he'd lived to see them make the finals. Gino died in 2016, and was inducted into the Canada Basketball Hall of Fame and the Windsor-Essex Hall of Fame. 

According to Sovran, Gino was a quiet man who never bragged about his time on the team. 

"We knew it but we didn't appreciate it," said Sovran. "Nobody identified with the Huskies. But later we knew how much he accomplished."

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