April 6, 2008
Notre Dame, Ind. – The hockey rink at the University of Notre Dame’s new ice arena, located within the Joyce Center, will be named the Charles W. “Lefty” Smith, Jr., Rink, in honor of the first coach in the program’s history. Notre Dame director of athletics Kevin White made the announcement today at the hockey team’s annual awards banquet.
Naming of the rink was made possible by the generosity of the John and Mary Jo Boler family of Inverness, Ill., and Sanibel Island, Fla.; their daughter, Jill Boler McCormack `84 and her husband, Dan; and their son, Matthew Boler `88 and his wife, Christine. They were joined by the family of Frank and Mary Beth O’Brien of Albany, N.Y., who have six children who all graduated from Notre Dame, including their late son, Frankie, who played both hockey and lacrosse at Notre Dame from 1984-88.
“When people think of Notre Dame and their experiences on our campus, they often think of the people and places that made an impact on them. For 40 years, Lefty Smith has been one of those people, making such an impact on students, faculty and staff while also having a major impact in the South Bend community,” said White.
“I would like to thank the Boler and O’Brien families for their incredible generosity that has helped to make this happen,” said White. “Now, when the Fighting Irish hockey team practices and competes at the new arena, their skates will hit the ice of the Charles W. `Lefty’ Smith, Jr., Rink — and that place, in the name of this Notre Dame man, will have a great impact on generations of people who come to Notre Dame.”
Smith came to Notre Dame in 1968 to help start the 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 — Eddie Bumbacco (1973), Bill Nyrop (1973), Jack Brownschidle (1976, `77), Brian Walsh (1977), Greg Meredith (1980) and Kirt Bjork (1983) — and finished second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) twice (1972-73, 1976-77). He was 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 that season. Among players on that team was former Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
Smith remained the head coach through the 1986-87 season and retired with a career record of 307-320-30. 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 (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.
After retiring from coaching, Smith became the director of the Loftus Sports Center, now part of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where he remains today coordinating all events and activities.
In 1992 he was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame and in 2003 was named a “Legend of Hockey,” by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation.
He also played an integral role in bringing the International Special Olympics to Notre Dame in 1987 and oversaw 22,000 volunteers and 6,000 Special Olympic athletes from 72 nations during the 12-day event.
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.
Married for 56 years, Lefty and his wife, Mickey, are parents of seven living children, 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.