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November 01, 2015

Neil Labatte

Neil Labatte only played 26 NHL games, never scoring a goal. But he is the only NHL player in history who can claim he went on to become CEO of Trump Hotels.

From Affluence Avenue magazine:

"There aren’t too many people you encounter whom you can confidently call legendary and without doubt, Mr. Labatte fits the bill. Neil has been in the real estate industry for over 30 years and is the founder of Global Dimension Capital, Inc., a hotel and real estate advisor formed in 2007 for the purpose of investing capital in hotel and real estate acquisitions and developments.

Two years ago, he became President and Chief Executive Officer of Talon International Inc. and Talon Luxury Collection – owners of Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto and Trump Residences Toronto; a project valued at over $400 million.

Neil's hockey career started out by the unusual route of first playing in the ECAC and Brown University and then in the OHA for the Toronto Marlboros. While playing for Brown University he quickly showed a willingness to throw big hits despite not being much of a heavyweight. After two solid seasons in the ECAC he jumped over to the OHA and the Marlboros. He had a fine season with Toronto as a center and collected 53 points (21 goals and 32 assists) in 66 games. His calm and steady play encouraged the St. Louis draft him 27th overall in 1977.

The scouting report on him was positive:

"Can play either forward or defense...good skater...excellent puck handler...takes man extremely well... throws weight around...likes physical parts of the game...aggressive. "

After the 1977 training camp St.Louis assigned Neil to their farm team in Salt Lake (CHL). He had a solid first season in Salt Lake, scoring 36 points (11 goals and 25 assists) and adding 116 penalty minutes.

The following season (1978-79) Neil got his chance in the NHL. He played 22 games for St.Louis, collecting 2 assists as a defenseman. He was not quite ready for the NHL and played the rest of the season in Salt Lake.

In 1979-80 he spent the entire season in Salt Lake as well as the 1980-81 season. In 1980-81 he was voted as Salt Lake's most valuable defenseman. But he also suffered from a serious shoulder injury that required two shoulder operations.

Neil had a very good 1981-82 season for Salt Lake and was called up to St.Louis for 4 games. Unfortunately his shoulder never got to be 100% and he had to retire after that 1981-82 season. Neil never quite got to establish himself in the NHL but at 24 he was well on his way to take a regular spot on the Blues defense.

As many other players he had to retire too early. But clearly he has done quite well for himself off the ice. He returned to school to get his degree in finance before embarking on his lucrative real estate career in 1981.

"To have a successful career," he advises, "you have to plan where you want to be in the future, visualize what that looks like and then figure out what skills you need to build in order to get to that level. Is it a sales skill or a finance skill? Is it an ability to be confident and to market yourself? You’re always selling yourself and your skills."

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