By: The Boston Hockey Blog staff
Travis Roy, the former Terrier forward who was paralyzed during his first collegiate shift, died this afternoon at the age of 45 due to complications from a procedure meant to maintain his quality of life, as first reported by WCVB. He was surrounded by family in his Vermont home.
“I think Travis had a really good relationship with a lot of people.” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in an interview. “With BU hockey, he transcended a lot of classes. I was talking to one of the former players and he said it pretty eloquently: that Travis kind of brought everyone in the program together, like they were one class, and kind of connected the current players to Mike Eruzione’s age and coach Parker, and through many generations of BU players.”
Roy had recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and had been undergoing treatment. His death comes only nine days after the 25th anniversary of his paralysis, in which he collided head-first into the boards just 11 seconds into his first game with BU on Oct. 20, 1995. The collision broke his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, leaving him quadriplegic.
Roy established the Travis Roy Foundation in 1996 with the intention of “enhancing the life of individuals with spinal cord injuries and their families.” The foundation has awarded more than $4.6 million in research grants dedicated to finding a cure, according to the foundation’s website, and it also puts half of the donations towards Quality of Life Grants to purchase adaptive equipment.
“I think his foundation, for one, will continue on. The fundraising that they’ve done and the great that they’ve done over an extended period of time, I imagine, will continue. I imagine people will be pouring out at some of his charitable accounts over the next year especially with his passing. Everyone will really want to support it even more,” O’Connell continued.
“[Roy’s] story is the epitome of inspiration and courage, and he was a hero and role model to so many people,” BU Athletics said in a statement. “Travis’ work and dedication towards helping fellow spinal cord-injury survivors is nothing short of amazing. His legacy will last forever, 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.”
Besides promoting his foundation, Roy spent the rest of his life as an active voice in the quadriplegic community. He routinely spoke at high schools and other events, inspiring others with his story and dedication to giving back.
Roy, with the help of E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated, published a book on his accident and journey to recovery. “Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage, and Triumph” was released in 1998.
Roy’s No. 24 jersey was the first number to be retired in program history, and remains the only number besides Jack Parker’s No. 6. Roy graduated from the College of Communication Class of 2000, and he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from BU in 2016.
“If you’re in the rafters at BU, that transcends you through time. A lot of people that don’t know anything about BU Hockey, or that do know something about BU Hockey, they all know Travis. They know Travis Roy, and they know his story. He has reached a lot of people so I don’t think Travis is going anywhere. When you walk into our office, he’s the first picture you see. When you’re down in our locker room, there’s a wall that pays homage to Travis and coach Parker, the only retired numbers, and that’ll never go away,” O’Connell said.
More information on this developing story will be added as it comes.