Olivier Labelle Q&A
Veteran forward discusses his path to Indianapolis and expectations for 2018-19 seasonSep 5, 2018
Veteran Forward Olivier Labelle returns to North America after finishing second in team scoring with the Bordeaux Boxers with 44 points (22g, 22a) in 44 games. The Reading Royals all-time franchise leader in goals (128) is no stranger to the ECHL. The 12thyear pro has played 402 games with the Reading Royals, Victoria Salmon Kings, and the Utah Grizzlies before signing with the fuel this July. The native of St-Eustache, Quebec sat down with the Fuel to discuss his summer in Indianapolis and his hopes for the season.
This previous season you played in France. How is the style of play and atmosphere different in Europe versus in North America?
OL – There is a difference not only on the ice but with the lifestyle as well, but I like both and just love playing hockey. It is definitely a bit more physical in the ECHL, and it’s something that I know and enjoy. I prefer the style of play of North American hockey on a smaller sheet of ice, it fits my style of play much better. Also, the professionalism in the ECHL is higher, considering you’re surrounded by the NHL system, so things are just a little different than in Europe.
What is it like playing in a new city at this stage in your career?
OL – It’s definitely different. The last time I played for a different ECHL team was in 2008-2009 when I was playing for Victoria. During the 2009-2010 season in Reading I met my future wife, Jennifer, and we spent three years together there. Reading is definitely like a second home to me. It’s where Jennifer’s family and friends are from so I mainly stayed there because of her.
I was staying in a hotel with [2016-2017 Indy Fuel Forward Kevin] Lynchand was talking with him about his time in Indy. I knew that my wife was going to be moving here for a job so he hooked me up with [Head Coach Bernie John] and I contacted him about the upcoming season. So to be in Indy right now it is a little bit different but so far, so good! Everybody on the team and the organization has treated me well. I love the city, our neighborhood is really nice, we enjoy our time here.
What things have you been doing in Indianapolis to make Indy your third home?
OL – I’ve been here since beginning of April and we love exploring the restaurants around us or walking to Broad Ripple. We had friends from Canada come in, and we had fun going downtown to an outside concert, going to the fair and the Indy 500, so while we have been in Indy we have been doing as the Hoosiers do. We even went to the gun range-which for me as a Canadian is not as common and it was really fun.
As the franchise leader in goals for Reading, you have track record of success in the ECHL. How do you hope to bring that level of play to the Fuel?
OL – I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, especially in the ECHL level. I want to say I am a young 33-year-old, but I think I know myself and Bernie knows my style of play as well. If I am put in a position where I can play my style the best, I should be able to get the job done, just like I have been doing. Every year in Reading I was playing with different teammates so it’s just a matter of finding chemistry and finding your place in the team system. Hopefully I can stay away from injury and be able to play all the games and do what I do best.
What are your feelings going into the season right now?
OL – I am definitely getting the itch right now, it has been a long summer. My parents are planning on coming for the first weekend and we have friends coming for the following weekend which should be a great way to start out the year. I am pretty disciplined and been skating by myself all summer but I have been starting to skate with some of the local guys like [Defenseman Zach] Miskovic who I met today and seems like a great guy. I am really looking forward to the season, and the chance to get back on the ice and to play some hockey. Just very grateful that I am able to play at this level and contribute and help the team.