Travis Roy, who was paralyzed 11 seconds into the first shift of his Boston University hockey career in 1995 and who devoted the rest of his life to helping others with spinal cord injuries, has died of complications from his paralysis at age 45.
Roy, who grew up in Yarmouth, Maine, was a freshman on the defending national champion Terriers for their 1995-96 season opener against North Dakota on Oct. 20, 1995. Eleven seconds into his first shift, he crashed awkwardly into the boards, cracking two vertebrae and leaving him a quadriplegic.
Roy turned his devastating injury into a lifetime of helping others. In 1997, he founded the Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors and help fund research for a cure.
The foundation has raised more than $9 million for research projects and for individual grants that can be used for things like wheelchairs, computers, ramps, shower chairs and vehicle modifications.
Roy has also worked as a motivational speaker, sharing his story with students, athletes and many others in New England and around the country.
In 1999, his number 24 was the first number ever retired by BU. Roy remained part of the BU community for the rest of his life and often attended hockey games. His bond with legendary coach Jack Parker was close to a father-son relationship, with Parker often saying that the worst thing to happen during his coaching career was Roy's injury and the best was the way BU and the hockey community responded to it.
"It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy," BU Athletics said in a statement. "His story is the epitome of inspiration and courage, and he was a role model and a hero to so many people. Travis’ work and dedication towards helping fellow spinal cord-injury survivors is nothing short of amazing. His legacy will last forever, not just within the Boston University community, but with the countless lives he has impacted across the country. Our sincere thoughts are with his wonderful family as well as his vast support group of friends and colleagues."