Charles “Lefty” Smith

Charles “Lefty” Smith, a long-time fixture at Notre Dame, passed away Tuesday, January 3, 2012.  In 1968, the club hockey team, then coached by students, was on the verge of becoming varsity, after a long history oscillating through non-existence, club, and varsity status.  Notre Dame snagged Lefty Smith as the first varsity hockey coach in the modern era.  He was coaching the South St. Paul High School team and was “considered the top high school coach in the state [Minnesota], and has produced teams with impressive records” [Dome yearbook 1968, page 197].

Hockey Coach Charles “Lefty” Smith, c1970s

Lefty coached the varsity hockey team for 19 seasons, racking up a number of accolades.  His demeanor was relaxed and approachable, yet he held high expectations on and off the ice.  It was important to Lefty that his student athletes earn a college degree, more important than winning games.

Hockey Coach Charles “Lefty” Smith teaching techniques to a group of boys on the ice during a youth sports camp, 1978/0720

Lefty was also instrumental in facilitating youth hockey camps, which opened the world of hockey to a new generation of athletes in the South Bend community.  Undoubtedly, he instilled in them the same virtues of sportsmanship, competition, discipline, and respect that he left with many of those with whom he interacted.  In a 1974 interview with Scholastic, Lefty said, “You know the old, shopworn cliches between sports and life; well, it seems to me there is a definite correlation between the discipline and attitude which good competitive sports breed and the principles by which I wish to live by.”


Dome yearbook
“More than a Hockey Coach,” by Bob Kissel, Scholastic, 12/13/1974, pages 16-28
GASI 6/33
GPHR 35m/05511

4 thoughts on “Charles “Lefty” Smith”

  1. Lefty offers something we all wanted in a coach. A good man, who cared about our interest, who knew me personally, and who could rally and motivate a team to work together. I grew up with a man like that who coached my little league baseball league for the 4 years I played. He was a great man and a great coach! Good job lefty!

  2. I think sports camps are awesome! Kids get to learn special details about the sport that coaches in general don’t have the time to teach. I wish ND had a baseball camp for boys and girls to help them better prepare for summer baseball league.

  3. We usually only learn about the most famous sportsmen. Also, we easily forget about those amazing people who worked very hard and dedicated them selves to making those sportsmen become what they are today. Lefty was one of those people, so it’s nice that somebody remembers and appreciates that

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