The hockey world has lost one of its most inspiring icons today, as Travis Roy has passed away at the age of 45. It was 25 years ago this month that Roy, then a freshman at Boston University, was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first shift of the first game of his collegiate career. Rather than let this tragedy define him, Roy spent his life raising money to help fellow quadriplegics and other victims of spinal cord injuries and to support research that will help countless more in the future. Roy sadly struggled with complications related to his injury over the years and recently underwent surgery in September. An issue related to that procedure required emergency surgery on Tuesday and led to his death this afternoon.
Roy, a native of Maine, played prep school hockey at nearby North Yarmouth Academy and then at Tabor Academy in Massachusetts before enrolling at Boston University in 1995. He was a member of a roster that included future NHLers Chris Drury, Jay Pandolfo, Shawn Bates, and Mike Grier, as well as an NHL head coach John Hynes and current Terriers head coach Albie O’Connell. However, Roy had very little chance to play with this talented team. On October 20, 1995, Roy made his BU debut against the University of North Dakota; it lasted just 11 seconds. Roy fell awkwardly against the boards while delivering a check, breaking his fourth and fifth vertebra. The injury left him almost completely paralyzed from the neck down for the remainder of his life.
While Roy’s pro hockey dreams were dashed, he showed inspiring strength and resiliency by making it his life’s work to help those with similar injuries. The Travis Roy Foundation, created in 1997, has raised millions of dollars to fund research and to assist those struggling with spinal cord injuries. Roy himself was always on the front lines, serving as an inspiration to all those in need of light during their dark times.
An amazing ambassador for the sport of hockey, Roy has been honored for his charitable work by numerous organizations. In 1999, his number was retired by Boston University and is joined by only one other man, his former coach Jack Parker. In 2015, his hometown NHL team, the Boston Bruins, signed him to a one-day contract, bringing the former promising young hockey player closer to his life’s goal than he possibly could have imagined following his life-altering accident. Bruins President Cam Neely has released a statement on all that Roy has meant to so many, both in the New England hockey community and to spinal cord injury victims worldwide. All of these accolades for Roy pale in comparison to what he has provided to so many others and for the hockey community as a whole as a true beacon of hope and perseverance.
For more information on the inspiring journey of Travis Roy, please consider reading his obituary by Boston University or his autobiography, Eleven Seconds. You can donate to the Travis Roy Foundation here.
Everyone at PHR wishes the best to the family and friends of Roy and all who he touched during his life.