Irish hockey pioneer "Lefty" Smith dies
Smith is responsible for bringing Notre Dame hockey into the modern era.
Smith coached the Irish for 19 seasons (1968-87), amassing a 307-320-30 record, including runner-up finishes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in 1973 and 1977. He was named the WCHA Coach of the Year in 1973 and turned out numerous All-Americans, including future Irish head coach (and eventual NHL standout) Dave Poulin. All 126 players who completed their collegiate eligibility under Smith's tutelage earned their college degrees.
So great was his impact at Notre Dame, that the rink inside the brand new Compton Family Ice Arena bears his name, the "Lefty Smith Ice Rink".
The rink will be dedicated in a ceremony to Lefty one month from today.
Smith was the longest tenured employee in the Notre Dame athletics department (44 years).
After stepping down as head coach of the hockey team in 1987, Smith assumed responsibility for the Loftus Center.
“It is difficult to imagine Notre Dame without Charles ‘Lefty’ Smith,” said Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick. “From the time I attended my first hockey game as a freshman to the time I spent with him at his retirement party a few weeks ago, Lefty had been a prominent, colorful and impactful fixture at our University. Lefty’s legacy will be measured not so much in the program he built or the games hewon, but rather the thousands of lives he touched as a coach, teacher, administrator, father and husband--a legacy that we had the privilege of honoring with him in naming the Lefty Smith Rink at the Compton Family Ice Arena. We will miss him greatly, but we will never forget him."
Smith served as the president of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) for two years and also was the head coach of the at-large team in the first-ever National Sports Festival in 1978. Eight members of that team would go on to be part of the gold-medal winning 1980 United States Olympic hockey team.
Smith was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
Smith and his late wife Mickey (Mary McNally of New Richmond, Wis.) are parents of seven living children (the Smiths were preceded in death by a son Greg), 16 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 3-7 p.m. EST Friday at the Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 North Bendix Drive in South Bend (574-277-4444). A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. EST Saturday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame campus.