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Hockey: Future rink named for ex-coach

Kyle Cassily | Monday, April 7, 2008

Athletic Director Kevin White announced Sunday that the new ice arena to be built inside the Joyce Center will be called the Charles W. “Lefty” Smith, Jr., Rink.

White unveiled the rink’s name at the hockey team’s annual awards banquet held before a large crowd in the Mendoza College of Business auditorium. The announcement was accompanied by an artist’s rendering of the arena’s possible design.

It’s namesake, Lefty Smith, was the first Notre Dame hockey coach of the modern era when he helped start the program in 1968. Smith was present for the announcement and was introduced by Greg Meredith, a former player under Smith and All-American in 1980.

The artist’s rendering pictured the inside of a rectangular building with a lower, curved roof. The cavernous space of the current Joyce Center rink configuration was gone, replaced with seating wrapped tight along the ice and a video scoreboard in one corner.

White didn’t release any new information on possible construction timelines or if the project was yet fully-funded. An anonymous donor gave $15 million to the rink fund on Sept. 12, 2007.

The new rink’s name was a surprise to Smith, who said he realized something was up at the banquet when he saw members of the Boler family present. John and Mary Jo Boler were honored for their contributions toward funding the new rink at the banquet.

Smith told the audience that when he got to Notre Dame to coach, he was also charged with running the rink at a profit. Smith said he had no idea how to sharpen skates or drive a Zamboni, but he and longtime assistant coach Tim McNeill spent seven days a week at the rink learning to operate it.

They practiced driving the Zamboni on concrete, Smith said, but the off-ice training did little to make the first on-ice run any easier.

“We ran smack through the boards,” Smith joked about the inaugural Zamboni drive.

Smith coached the Irish for 19 seasons until he retired in 1987 with 307 wins. He was named the WCHA coach of the year in 1972-73 and mentored six All-Americans for the Irish.