Travis Roy, former hockey player who was champion for people with paralysis, dead at 45

Travis Roy, the Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first game and became a champion for people with paralysis, died Thursday, WFXT reported. He was 45.

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Roy died from complications from his paralysis, the television station reported.

On Oct. 20, 1995, Roy was making his first appearance on the ice for the Terriers. Eleven seconds into his shift, the 20-year-old hit the boards awkwardly while attempting to check a North Dakota player, Roy shattered his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed from the neck down.

He spent the rest of his life dedicated to raising funds to find a cure for paralysis, WFXT reported. The Travis Roy Foundation, founded in 1996, has helped more than 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics, according to Bostonia, the college’s alumni magazine. The foundation has awarded nearly $5 million in grants toward spinal cord research, according to the website.

“He did not want ever to put anybody out, he approached everything with love and gratitude,” Keith Vanorden, Roy’s brother-in-law, told Bostonia. “He did say if his passing inspired others, and served to motivate others to support the Travis Roy Foundation, then what a great way to remember him.”

Roy wrote a book, “Eleven Seconds,” which was published in 1998 and reflected on his injury and his life after hockey.

Roy was a high school hockey star in his hometown of Yarmouth, Maine, and transferred to Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. He earned a scholarship to Boston University and appeared to have a bright future until his injury.

“I always tell people, whenever this subject comes up, is that the worst thing that ever happened to me as the coach of the Boston University hockey team is the injury to Travis Roy,” Boston University coach Jack Parker told ESPN. “And the best thing that’s ever happened to me as the coach of the Boston University hockey team is the way everyone responded to the injury to Travis Roy. The way the Boston University community rallied around Travis was just unbelievable.”

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,” Boston University 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.”

From his wheelchair, Roy gave motivational speeches to help raise money for his foundation, ESPN reported. His message was, “Do the best with what you have and don’t dwell on your misfortune.”

On the 20th anniversary of his injury, Roy appeared on ESPN and the Boston Bruins signed him to a one-day contract, Bostonia reported. Roy dropped the ceremonial first puck that night, ESPN reported. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also declared that Oct. 20 was “Travis Roy Day” in 2015.

Anonymous donors gave $2.5 million to create the Travis M. Roy Professorship at Sargent College in 2017. In 2016, Roy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater.

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