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    Lucia Has Fond Memories of Lefty Smith

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    donlucia.jpg Star Tribune - Gophers coach Don Lucia played for Lefty Smith when Lucia was a defenseman at Notre Dame from 1977-81.

    So Lucia was among the many saddened to hear that Smith died on Tuesday night of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind. "Everybody that knows Lefty loved him," Lucia said.

    Smith coached the Irish for 19 years from 1968 to 1987 and, until retiring last month, was the facility manager of the school's Loftus Sports Center.

    "Lefty was not only the hockey coach but he spent more time there not coaching than coaching," Lucia said. "In many ways he was almost an ambassador at Notre Dame.

    "When you went in his office, as he managed the football center, you couldn't see the walls. All you saw were pictures of former players and families. That is just the kind of person he was."

    Smith, who would have turned 82 on Thursday, had a 307-320-30 record at Notre Dame. His teams were WCHA runners-up in 1973 and '77. He was the WCHA coach of the year in 1973.

    Smith's hockey roots were in Minnesota. He graduated from the College at St. Thomas in 1951 and from 1953 to '68 was an assistant and then a head coach at South St. Paul High School.

    "He is one of those throwback guys," Lucia said, "and obviously, he is very well connected to our state with his South St. Paul roots and coaching Doug Woog" in high school.

    Woog was the Gophers coach that Lucia succeeded in 1999-2000.

    Smith knew both Herb Brooks and John Mariucci well, Lucia said, adding; "He's told some good stories playing with John Mariucci [for] the old Millers back in the day."

    The Minneapolis Millers were a semi-pro hockey team.

    "It is amazing the names and the people that he [knew]," Lucia said.

    The rink at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena is named in honor of Smith.

    The Notre Dame Club of Minnesota had planned to hold a dinner at the University Hotel Minneapolis on Friday to honor Lefty Smith. It undoubtedly will still be held, but will be a more emotional event. Lucia and Irish coach Jeff Jackson are among the scheduled speakers. Tuesday was the deadline for buying tickets.

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