Charles “Lefty” Smith, a long-time fixture at Notre Dame, passed away Tuesday, January 3, 2012. In 1968, the club hockey team, then coached by students, was on the verge of becoming varsity, after a long history oscillating through non-existence, club, and varsity status. Notre Dame snagged Lefty Smith as the first varsity hockey coach in the modern era. He was coaching the South St. Paul High School team and was “considered the top high school coach in the state [Minnesota], and has produced teams with impressive records” [Dome yearbook 1968, page 197].
Hockey Coach Charles “Lefty” Smith, c1970s
Lefty coached the varsity hockey team for 19 seasons, racking up a number of accolades. His demeanor was relaxed and approachable, yet he held high expectations on and off the ice. It was important to Lefty that his student athletes earn a college degree, more important than winning games.
Hockey Coach Charles “Lefty” Smith teaching techniques to a group of boys on the ice during a youth sports camp, 1978/0720
Lefty was also instrumental in facilitating youth hockey camps, which opened the world of hockey to a new generation of athletes in the South Bend community. Undoubtedly, he instilled in them the same virtues of sportsmanship, competition, discipline, and respect that he left with many of those with whom he interacted. In a 1974 interview with Scholastic, Lefty said, “You know the old, shopworn cliches between sports and life; well, it seems to me there is a definite correlation between the discipline and attitude which good competitive sports breed and the principles by which I wish to live by.”