Feb. 6, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
More than 250 members of the Notre Dame hockey community – including 80 former players, coaches, managers and trainers – gathered on campus Feb. 3-4 to celebrate the life and legacy of Charles “Lefty” Smith during a series of “Lefty Fest” weekend events.
Some 37 members of Lefty Smith’s family participated in the festivities, which kicked off Friday night, as seven of his children participated in the ceremonial first puck drop prior to the Notre Dame hockey team’s game against Bowling Green. Following the contest, hockey Monogram winners and their families gathered at Legend’s for a post-game welcome reception.
Attendees received tours of the Compton Family Ice Arena and participated in an open skate at Lefty Smith Rink Saturday afternoon, while 28 former players from five decades of Notre Dame hockey suited up for an alumni game at the facility.
“It was great to skate in this brand new building,” said Phil Wittliff (’71). “It’s just so good to see everybody – I played both club and varsity, so it’s nice to be back with all the guys I played with.”
The Blue and White teams played to a spirited 10-10 tie before moving on to the former Joyce Center hockey arena later that afternoon for a special Mass led by Notre Dame hockey chaplain Rev. Tom Gaughan, C.S.C. (’80).
After the Mass, guests ventured upstairs for a dinner in the Monogram Room, emceed by Bob Nagle. During the dinner program, Nagle sat down with All-Americans Brian Walsh (’77) and Greg Meredith (’80), Minnesota men’s hockey head coach Don Lucia (’81) and Dr. Mike Collins (’71) for a conversation about Lefty’s role in their lives as both a coach and a mentor.
“Lefty created an extended family through his time as our coach – an extraordinary group of talented people, talented hockey players, but more than that, just great human beings,” Meredith said. “I am so glad to be a part of that brotherhood and a part of that family.”
The dinner also included special recognition for the Boler and McCormack families, whose generosity made the Lefty Smith Rink possible. The Bolers and McCormacks dropped the ceremonial first puck before Saturday’s hockey game.
“Beyond being just a hockey coach, I’ve never seen a man who was so compassionate, so full of life and so engaged,” Matt Boler (’88) said. “He truly loved his players, he loved his friends and family – he’s a seminal character of Notre Dame, and that’s why we felt he needed to be remembered and celebrated within the University.”
At the first intermission of Saturday’s contest, former Notre Dame players, managers, and trainers – led by former assistant coach Tim McNeill (1968-77) – were celebrated in a special on-ice recognition. Following the game, Lefty Fest guests wrapped up the weekend with a reception in O’Brien’s Pub.
Charles “Lefty” Smith was hired to be the first coach of the varsity hockey program in 1968 and served as head coach for 19 years, retiring in 1987 with 307 career wins. Under his tutelage, Notre Dame produced six All-Americans — Eddie Bumbacco (1973), Bill Nyrop (1973), Jack Brownschidle (1976, 1977), Walsh(1977), Meredith (1980) and Kirt Bjork(1983)–and finished second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) twice (1972-73, 1976-77). In his 19 seasons, all 126 players who played for him completed their collegiate eligibility and earned college degrees.
— ND —