Deaths elsewhere for Jan. 5, 2012Former Notre Dame hockey coach Charles “Lefty” Smith, who started the school’s hockey program in 1968 and was the longest-tenured employee in the athletic department, has died. He was 81. The university said he died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Former Notre Dame hockey coach Charles “Lefty” Smith, who started the school’s hockey program in 1968 and was the longest-tenured employee in the athletic department, has died. He was 81.
The university said he died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind.
Smith compiled a 307-320-30 record in 19 seasons from 1968-1987, including runner-up finishes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in 1973 and 1977. He was selected the WCHA Coach of the Year in 1973 and coached six All-Americans during his career.
In 1981-82, the Irish moved to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Smith guided them to the CCHA championship game that season.
After coaching, Smith became the facilities manager at the school’s Loftus Sports Center and remained in that role until he retired last month after 43 years in the department.
“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.”
The school named its new ice rink for Smith, who took part in the ceremonial opening faceoff in October at the first game in the new Compton Family Ice Arena. Dedication festivities for the rink had been scheduled for Feb. 3-4.
“Lefty’s legacy will be measured not so much in the program he built or the games he won, 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,’” Swarbrick said.
Born Jan. 5, 1930, Smith got his start in coaching in St. Paul, Minn. He was a standout hockey and baseball player at St. Thomas University before graduating in 1951. He became an assistant coach at South St. Paul High School in 1953 and took over as head coach in 1958. He remained there until 1968, turning in a record of 201-69-11 before leaving to start the hockey program at Notre Dame.
Smith served two years as president of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) and also coached the Central team at the 1978 National Sports Festival. Eight members of that team would go on to be members of the gold-medal winning 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
In 1992, he was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
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