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Charles Smith - 2003 Legend of College Hockey

By Wally Shaver

Officially, he's Charles Smith. To everyone who knows of him, he's Lefty. The father of Notre Dame hockey is the 2003 Legend of College Hockey, as presented annually by the Hobey Baker Award Committee. To say Lefty Smith is a self-starter is an understatement - his career is full of wonderful building projects. While attending South St. Paul High School, Lefty found his first project.

Smitten with the hockey bug after watching the firs'-ever Minnesota High School hockey tourney, Smith and his buddies circulated a petition around town and in the fall of 1945, varsity hockey began in South St. Paul. Two years later, they were Consolation Champs at the 1947 tourney. Following a four year stint at St. Thomas Univer¬sity where he played hockey and baseball, Lefty returned to South St. Paul as an assistant coach in 1953, then took over head coaching duties in 1958. The opening of Wako-ta Arena in 1959 brought the entire urogram indoors due to the diligent efforts of Smith.

In 1968, another start-up project beckoned for Lefty's expertise. The University of Notre Dame was adding var¬sity hockey. The move to South Bend, IN has been fruit¬ful for Lefty, his wife Mary, and their eight children. The Lefty Smith coached Fighting Irish joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 1971, then changed confer¬ence affiliations in 1980 with the formation of the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Smith recorded 307 career wins over a 19-year span behind the Irish bench. Retiring in 1987 from coaching, Lefty then became Director of the new Loftus Sports Center complex on the Notre Dame campus where he remains today coordinating all events and activities in the large complex.

Fart of Lefty's hockey life includes his tenure as President and board member of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Coaches Association and similar positions with the American Hockey Coaches Association. Smith also contributed time to running three College Hockey All Star Games and three All-American awards banquets.

His crowning achievement outside of hockey was securing the 1987 International Special Olympic games for Notre Dame and South Bend, IN. The 12-day event involved 22,000 volunteers for 6000 Special Olympic ath¬letes from 72 nations.

In addition to his Legend of Hockey honor from the Hobey Baker Award Committee, Lefty's legacy has been enshrined into the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Hall of Fame and the South Bend Hall of Fame. Lefty has received the WCHAs Founders Award and the John "Snooks" Kelly Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association for his contributions to hockey in the U.S.