Longtime Notre Dame coach Smith dies

Lefty Smith, who formed the modern Notre Dame team and was its coach for 19 seasons, died Tuesday. He was 81.

Smith, whose name is on the rink at the new Compton Family Ice Arena, died of natural causes at his South Bend, Ind., home.

“It is difficult to imagine Notre Dame without Charles ‘Lefty’ Smith,” Notre Dame vice president and athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “From the time I attended my first hockey game as a freshman to the time I spent with him at his retirement party a few weeks ago, Lefty had been a prominent, colorful and impactful fixture at our university.

“Lefty’s legacy will be measured not so much in the program he built or the games he won, but rather the thousands of lives he touched as a coach, teacher, administrator, father and husband — a legacy that we had the privilege of honoring with him in naming the Lefty Smith Rink at the Compton Family Ice Arena. We will miss him greatly, but we will never forget him.”

Smith coached the Fighting Irish from 1968 to 1987, retiring with a career record of 307-320-30. All 126 players who played for Smith in his 19 seasons completed their collegiate eligibility and earned a college degree.

Smith was the president of the American Hockey Coaches Association for two years.

After retiring as coach, Smith became the facilities manager at the school’s Loftus Sports Center. He retired from that role last month.

Dedication festivities for Smith and the Compton Family Ice Arena were scheduled for Feb. 3-4. Smith took part in the ceremonial opening faceoff at the arena in October.

Born Jan. 5, 1930, Charles W. Smith Jr. graduated in 1951 from St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., then entered coaching at South St. Paul High School.

He was named Notre Dame coach in 1968, taking over a program that had been at the club level.

With the Irish, he produced six All-Americans and was named the WCHA’s coach of the year in the 1972-73 season.

Services are pending.