Fort Wayne Komets assistant coach Olivier Legault driving toward ultimate goal with part-time job
Every eventually successful professional hockey coach has a great story about a part-time job they took to continue following their full-time passion.
Especially when they are starting their careers, assistant coaches almost always need a part-time job during the offseason. Former Komets coach John Torchetti drove a cab in Winston-Salem, N.C., current Komets coach Gary Graham sells fireworks and assistant Ben Boudreau helps run the family hockey school business.
Olivier Legault found his own niche, offering Uber and Lyft rights during summer weekends. Entering his third season as an assistant coach with the Komets, Legault, 31, also works full-time at Petroleum Parts Inc. (PPI) in New Haven and coaches the U-18 Fort Wayne Force travel hockey team.
Legault took one of financial planning guru Dave Ramsey’s suggestions and started driving for an extra job last summer.
“I like conversation, and this is just like hockey,” he said. “The time goes by so quickly and it’s not a desk job where you are looking at the clock and thinking, `I have eight hours left.’
“I have always tried to find an extra job to make extra money wherever I have gone. My mom has always been a nurse taking on extra hours, and my dad was a miner for 18 years and had a great work ethic.”
Which has definitely carried over to his son, who has always been personable, polite, trustworthy and a solid leader since he arrived in Fort Wayne in 2007 from Chibougamau, Quebec. He won two championship rings with the Komets, met his wife Rachel working at PPI and has become a solid part of the community. They now have three children all under age 5.
“This is a perfect fit for me because I can pop on and off at any time,” he said. “If Rachel calls me and says she needs me at home, I’m going home. The most important part of this job is you get to decide when you are on or off and you get to be your own boss.”
Legault usually hits the road around 7 p.m. on a Friday and around 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday. He starts out by sweeping he interior of his 2008 GMC Acadia, checking the outside for dings or scratches and maybe heading to the car wash, depending upon the weather.
He bought the Acadia because it has an extra row of seating for potential riders and for his three children.
“After a couple of days of kids in the car, you’ll find crackers and stuff in places you didn’t think anything would fit,” he said with a laugh.
He bought the Acadia with 130,000 miles on it so he’s extra careful with timely oil changes and regular maintenance. After filling up, he takes off looking for customers, checking both Uber and Lyft applications on his phone (260-446-4450) or on social media notifications. He’s usually receiving steady requests all night long.
“There’s a couple of ways I’ve learned to read people,” he said. “If someone comes and sits by you, that usually means they are pretty open to talk. If they sit opposite you in the back seat, that usually means the same thing. If they sit behind you they usually like to be left alone.”
Legault said he makes an average of $500 each weekend. Heading into last Saturday, he had chauffeured 330 rides and had received 162 five-star ratings on Uber over the last two summers. All but one of his ratings were five stars, and the only time he received four stars was his very first day when the Uber application crashed and he had to ask a rider for directions.
“You get to know some people,” he said. “One time I was at the airport and I picked up a lawyer. I got to talk with the guy for half an hour about his profession. If I wanted to sit with him for a half hour, it would have cost me $250, and I got to ask him whatever I wanted for free.”
Unlike his playing days when he liked to crash into everything on the ice, Legault drives as if his own children were sitting in the back. Riders can barely feel when he goes over a speed bump.
He also provides water bottles, allows riders to pick the music and provides DVD options for kids. If it’s raining, he tries to deliver folks to the front door or under the awning, and he always checks to make sure nothing was left behind.
“It was a pleasant surprise for sure,” said lifelong Komets fan Tina Mohr who got a ride with Legault on Saturday. She uses a wheelchair. “I’m always nervous because I know they are supposed to be able to lift the wheelchair but sometimes they gripe about it a little, but I knew he would be helpful and accommodating. He didn’t just talk about the weather or ask some general questions. He was engaged with what I had to say.”
Sometimes, riders are intrigued by Legault’s French accent and will ask questions about his hockey career. His French came in handy when he picked up some riders from Haiti recently. He has a relaxed way of making everyone comfortable and feel welcome.
Last Friday night, after the TinCaps game was rained out, Legault drove a bunch of West Michigan WhiteCaps to see the new Jurassic Park movie. During Gearfest, he picked up riders from Houston, Las Vegas and Belgium whom he really enjoyed, as he does most of his customers.
“I’ve had some bad experiences, but rarely,” he said. “I’ve had people throw up in my car or be especially rude because they are drunk.”
He’s only refused service to one person because they were obviously already intoxicated and wanted to continue drinking during the ride. He also has a subtle way of avoiding trouble by standing outside his vehicle later at night so any suspected troublemakers see his 6-foot-5, former professional athlete frame. That usually discourages them right away.
Now, driving is an easy and sometimes fun way to meet people and make some extra money. Getting started, however…
“The unknown is always the scary part of anything in life,” he said. “Once you do it, it’s like the first time you talk in front of a class or talk to the boys from the board. It can be a little intimidating. You kind of mess up but the more you do it the more comfortable you get and the more natural you become.”
The worst part? When his 4 1/2-year-old daughter complains that he’s leaving for work again. That and getting up the next morning.
“My wife is nice enough to let me sleep until 10, 11 a.m.,” he said. “Yeah, I don’t feel like I’ve slept eight hours and I’m not totally rested, but that’s part of the sacrifice of life and being a dad. It’s nice to have a wife who supports me.”
Yeah, that’s because she can always track him and the money.