Just 11 seconds into his first collegiate game, on his first shift as a member of the Boston University men’s ice hockey team, Travis Roy’s life trajectory changed. He slid head-first into the boards and fractured the fourth vertebrae in his neck leaving him a quadriplegic. Although his promising hockey career came to an end, Roy became an inspirational figure through his philanthropic work.
On Thursday, 25 years and nine days after his debilitating injury, Roy died at the age of 45. A family spokesman reported it was due to complications of being a quadriplegic.
The hockey world has spent the evening mourning Roy and remembering his contributions.
“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.”
In 1996 the Travis Roy Foundation was established to help spinal cord injury survivors and to fund research. Half of the money raised goes to Quality of Life Grants, while more than $4.6 million has been awarded in research grants.
The Terriers retired Roy’s No. 24 in 1999 and he was honored by BU in 2015.
“Twenty years ago tonight, I lived out my dream of playing Division I hockey,” he said five years ago. “The 11 seconds at Walter Brown Arena playing for Boston University were the best 11 seconds of my life.”
He added, “My work on the Travis Roy Foundation alongside my friends and family has helped me create a life that is very rich, very much worth living. I feel so loved.”
The hockey world took to social media to remember Roy.
Absolutely heartbroken to learn of Travis Roy’s passing. He was one of hockey’s all-time ambassadors, a shining light for people in darkness, and an inspiration to all he met. 💔 https://t.co/RwQGHgHg3E
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) October 29, 2020
Countless conversations, emails, texts with my friend. He just loved to talk hockey. Frozen in that chair always tightened my chest with sadness. But, he became a pass first human improving the life of many with his grit and relentlessness. Travis Roy was 45. Skate again, my man. pic.twitter.com/nuiMCffDEa
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) October 29, 2020
Brutally sad to hear the news about Travis Roy. I was always inspired after being around him. So mentally strong and his positive attitude was amazing. He made such a significant impact w his work. A special person who lived a special life in spite of his situation. RIP
— Billy Jaffe (@BJaffe) October 29, 2020
Travis did so many little things and big things for so many people. This is gutting, really truly sad. Travis visited me when I was still in the hospital and has continued to be a big support in my recovery. Wow. #ThankYouTravis pic.twitter.com/a3xLwxhTC6
— Denna Laing (@dlaing14) October 29, 2020
RIP. Had the pleasure to meet Travis at a BBYO event when I was in HS. A powerful story and a constant reminder of the dangers hockey players face every second of every game/practice. Thoughts and prayers to his family. https://t.co/flilBJmiaj
— Matthew Blittner (@MatthewBlittner) October 29, 2020
Rest in peace, Travis Roy.
You were an inspiration to so many in the BU community and beyond. You will be sorely missed, but your legacy of kindness, generosity, and perseverance will stay with us forever. pic.twitter.com/fTop1ooPHs
— The BU Dog Pound (@BUDogPound) October 29, 2020
Travis Roy’s hockey dreams ended just 11 seconds into his first game with the Terriers.
To emerge from that despair and serve as a beacon of inspiration, perseverance and hope — it’s truly remarkable.
What a legacy he left with so, so many. pic.twitter.com/52SE82d1gY
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 29, 2020
We are saddened to hear about the passing of Travis Roy, who transformed his personal tragedy into a beacon of hope for millions of people in the game & beyond. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WeYzzULQCh
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) October 29, 2020
sad day after hearing of the passing of Travis Roy he was a very special person. he dedicated his life to helping so many. raised so much money For spinal cord injuries and those who suffered. He will be missed but his spirit and smile will be remembered forever RIP my friend https://t.co/iy3HgwTtBt
— MIKE ERUZIONE (@MERUZIONE) October 29, 2020
Travis spoke at @mnwild’s training camp a year ago and it was one of the most inspiring things I’d witnessed. His story is incredible. Prayers for his family and the entire hockey community. https://t.co/bTkEyyaxLS
— Jacob Born (@Jacob_Born) October 29, 2020