April 18, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – Former Notre Dame hockey coach Charles “Lefty” Smith will be honored for his outstanding accomplishments in hockey at this year’s Hobey Baker Award Banquet as the “Legend of Hockey” honoree. The banquet, which will also honor the 2003 Hobey Baker Award winner – Peter Sejna of Colorado College, will be held on April 25th at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Smith came to Notre Dame in 1968 to help start the Notre Dame hockey program and remained the head coach of the Irish for 19 seasons before retiring in 1987 with 307 career victories. Under his tutelage, Notre Dame produced six All-Americans and finished second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) twice (1972-73 and 1976-77). He was selected the WCHA Coach of the Year following the 1972-73 season.
In 1981-82, the Irish moved to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) where Smith guided the Irish to the Great Lakes Invitational Championship and the CCHA championship game where they lost to Michigan State. One of his top players then was current Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
After the University announced that it would no longer sponsor varsity hockey in 1983, Smith remained as the head coach of the program as a club team for one year (1983-84) and then for three more seasons when it competed as a non-scholarship independent program. The popular head coach retired following the 1986-87 season with a career record of 307-320-30. More importantly, in his 19 seasons, all 126 players who played for him completed their collegiate eligibility and earned college degrees.
Smith served two years as president of the American Hockey Coaches Association and also coached the Central team at the 1978 National Sports Festival.
Following 19 years as head coach of the Irish, Smith became the director of the Loftus Sports Center complex where he remains today coordinating all events and activities.
Smith got his start in coaching in South St. Paul, Minn., where he was instrumental in developing that fabled high school program before moving to South Bend. A 1951 graduate of St. Thomas University, where he was a standout hockey and baseball player, Smith became an assistant coach at South St. Paul 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.
Outside of hockey, Smith was instrumental in securing the 1987 International Special Olympic Games for Notre Dame. During the 12-day event, he oversaw 22,000 volunteers and 6,000 Special Olympic athletes from 72 nations.
Smith and his wife, Mary, the parents of eight children (five girls and three boys), reside in South Bend.