Please remember in your prayers Charles “Lefty” Smith ’51, grandfather of Nicole Smith, a master’s student in English at St. Thomas and a student worker with the Multicultural Forum.
Smith, a longtime hockey coach at South St. Paul High School and the University of Notre Dame, died unexpectedly in his sleep Monday, Jan. 2, one day before his 82nd birthday.
Smith was a 1951 graduate of St. Thomas, where he also obtained a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. While at St. Thomas, Smith excelled in both hockey and baseball and went on to play both sports at the semipro level in Minneapolis. Smith became assistant hockey coach at South St. Paul High School in 1953 and later took over as head coach until 1968.
In 1968 Smith became the head hockey coach at Notre Dame and led the Irish for 19 seasons (1968-87). He was named WCHA Coach of the year in 1973 and turned out numerous All-Americans, including Jack Brownschidle and Greg Meredith; a WCHA Most Valuable Player, Brian Walsh; and a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Dave Poulin; in addition, all 126 of Smith’s players who completed their collegiate eligibility under him earned their college degrees.
Smith served as the president of the American Hockey Coaches Association for two years. He also was the head coach of the at-large team in the inaugural National Sports Festival of 1978. Eight members of that team went on to win gold medals with the “miracle on ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980.
Smith was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992. He worked tirelessly to bring the International Special Olympics to Notre Dame in 1987, a high point in his 10-year affiliation with the program. Smith stepped away from coaching in 1987 to take over the Loftus Sports Center until his retirement at the end of 2011. Thanks to the generosity of the John Boler family of Chicago, the new Notre Dame hockey rink is named Lefty Smith rink.
Married for 58 years, Smith and his late wife, Mickey, are survived by seven children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A wake will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at Kaniewski Funeral Home in South Bend, Ind. The funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.