Indians Legend Joe Charboneau Inspired by Childhood Love of Hockey
One of the most colorful characters in Cleveland Indians history, Tribe legend Joe Charboneau slugged his way to American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1980 but the man they call “Super Joe” really grew up playing hockey on his family’s backyard rink in Illinois.
“My dad and brother built it,” explained Charboneau. “It was nothing elaborate but we had a huge backyard and we squared it off. Some portions of our backyard were sunken down in [to the ground], so it made for a great hockey rink. Every time it got cold they lined it with some [dasher] boards, took a couple hoses out, laid the ice down, then made some nets. Nothing fancy, just backyard hockey.”
Charboneau credits his two older brothers in sparking his great appreciation for the game.
“My brothers would play football and baseball, but they were really into hockey,” said Charboneau. “They were die-hard. They played on elite teams and were pretty good players. One was a goalie [and the other was a skater]. My dad was Canadian and was from the Chicago area. They just loved hockey and I loved watching them play.”
Charboneau says skating with his brothers in their backyard provided some of his earliest sports memories.
“Even though I was only five or six I’d try and skate around [in the backyard] and check my older brothers into the boards and stuff like that,” said Charboneau, laughing. “We were a tough family, it was a hockey family.”
Once his family relocated to California, Charboneau’s hockey ambitions waned as the future outfielder would go on to post a .289 batting average with 23 home runs and 87 RBI’s in his 1980 Rookie of the Year season. But even while his family focused more on baseball and football, he says the sport of hockey played a big role in his household once upon a time.
“I think it was just the fact the whole family was into it. All the guys and the girls in our family just really loved [being on the ice],” explained Charboneau. “It was a blast because you knew everyone would be out there with you. We’d spend hours outside just skating on the ice on our backyard. That really made me fall in love with [hockey].”
Charboneau’s exploits on the ice haven’t been limited solely to his childhood, however, and says during a television stint in the 1990’s he donned a mask and stepped between the pipes.
“I used to work for Fox 8 and we did a fun Lumberjacks story,” remembered Charboneau. “They dressed me up in goalie gear and some of the players shot pucks at me. I spent more time on the ground than I did upright!”
A participant in Saturday’s Cleveland Sports Legends Night at The Q, Charboneau says he’s attended Monsters games in the past and is thrilled to return for another Hockey Night in Cleveland.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend,” said Charboneau. “I can’t wait. I cleared my calendar to make sure I could attend.”