Irish hockey legend "Lefty" Smith passes away at age 81

Lefty Smith just loved to work.

Three days after retiring from Notre Dame after 44 years as its longest tenured Athletic Department employee, Charles "Lefty" Smith passed away Tuesday night of natural causes. He would have turned 82 on Thursday.

"It is difficult to imagine Notre Dame without Charles “Lefty” Smith," said Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick 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."

Smith was Notre Dame's first varsity hockey coach. Lefty began working at the university in 1968, as Notre Dame transitioned into a varsity hockey program. He continued serving the athletic department until his retirement on December 31st, working as the facilities manager at the Loftus Center.

Notre Dame honored Smith by naming the ice at the New Compton Arena "Lefty Smith Rink." Lefty had the pleasure of seeing the program he started move into the best hockey facility in the country in late 2011. Smith dropped the puck at the first game at the new arena in October against RPI.

"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," Swarbrick said.

Known for sitting in the "Lefty Perch", Smith would watch over the Irish Icers from a special spot high above the rink at the old Joyce Center. For the final game at the Joyce Center, Smith was joined by Congressman Joe Donnelly.

The "Lefty Perch" transitioned to the new Compton Family Ice Arena where Smith had a permanent spot in the Irish press box.

Smith coached the Irish for 19 seasons (1968-87), amassing a 307-320-30 record, including runner-up finishes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in 1973 and 1977. He was named the WCHA Coach of the Year in 1973 and turned out numerous All-Americans, including two-time honoree Jack Brownschidle (1976-77), 1976-77 WCHA Most Valuable Player Brian Walsh, 1980 All-American (and 2005 NCAA Silver Anniversary recipient) Greg Meredith, and 1982 Hobey Baker Award finalist (and eventual NHL standout) Dave Poulin. What's more, all 126 players who completed their collegiate eligibility under Smith's tutelage earned their college degrees.

Lefty is survived by seven living children, 16 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

His beloved wife of 58 years, Mickey, and son greg have passed away.

Visitation will be from 3-7 p.m. EST Friday at the Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 North Bendix Drive in South Bend (574-277-4444). A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. EST Saturday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame.

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