How did Travis Roy suffer spinal cord injury? Former Boston University ice hockey player dies at 45
Former Boston University hockey player Travis Roy, who is deemed as “hero'' of the hockey world for his courage and philanthropy after being paralyzed due to a severe spinal cord injury in 1995 had died. He was 45 and the news came on October 29.
The reason for his death as reported by ESPN is “complications from a procedure he needed to maintain his quality of life” as told by a family spokesperson. The horrific incident that caused his spinal cord injury had Roy slid headfirst into the boards just 11 seconds into his first shift for a hockey match for Boston University on October 20, 1995. ESPN reported he cracked his fourth vertebra, which left him a quadriplegic. Roy had since regained movement in his right arm, which he used to control the joystick that moved his wheelchair.
"It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,'' Boston University 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."
As the former hockey player is called an inspiration, here we shed light on his life-altering events.
Who was Travis Roy?
Travis Matthew Roy was a college ice hockey player, author and philanthropist. He was the son of a Maine hockey rink manager. Roy went on to study at Yarmouth High School as a freshman, then transferred to North Yarmouth Academy (NYA) to pursue an athletic scholarship. He was transferred again and graduated from Tabor Academy receiving an ice hockey scholarship to Boston University (College of Communication, Class of 2000).
In October 1995, a life-altering event happened to him. Just 11 seconds into his first-ever shift for Boston University men's ice hockey team – a 20-year-old Roy slid head-first into the boards after University of North Dakota player Mitch Vig avoided Roy's check. The awkward impact with the boards resulted in Roy's cracking his fourth and fifth vertebra and leaving him a quadriplegic.
Roy recalled later in BU’s alumni magazine, “The 11 seconds at Walter Brown Arena playing for Boston University were the best 11 seconds of my life.”The injury severely damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the neck down. Roy mentioned that lying in the intensive care unit for two months, supported by a ventilator, he pondered if his life was worth living. At that time he saw himself as a burden to his parents due to injury. However, his resilient spirit did not give up.
In 1997, Roy began with The Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors live more self-reliant lives. ESPN reported that the foundation raised over $9 million -- with more than $4.7 million going to research grants and the other half to provide equipment for those with spinal chord injuries. Further, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his injury, Boston University set up a Travis Roy professorship in rehabilitation sciences.
Roy recalled his work with his foundation, “Once I decided I did want to live, I realized I could live according to the same values that made me successful before my accident. 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. I realize that my work is my new dream, and that’s what fuels me.”
Roy’s heartfelt story of inspiration touched every corner of the hockey world, but resonated more in Boston. Hockey team Boston Bruins donated to his foundation all these years. In 2015, they signed him to a one-day contract. In the same year, Boston mayor Marty Walsh also declared that October 20 would be "Travis Roy Day". "Travis Roy was the ultimate symbol of determination and courage,'' former Bruins star and current team president Cam Neely said as reported by ESPN. "The impact that Travis had on the New England hockey community is immeasurable, and his relentless advocacy for spinal cord research was inspiring.'' Roy also recalled his whole journey in a past interview at BU, "I like to say the first 20 years I had a life that was full of passion and the last 20 I've had a life full of purpose.”
Now as the news of his demise came, the Internet poured in heartwarming messages for the late player. A user wrote in Roy’s praise, “Travis Roy's injury is one my earliest hockey memories. More than the injury, I remember being astounded at his immediate push to be a force for good in spite of what happened to him. Seeing his grace and will to help others over the last 25 years has been a gift for all of us.”
A journalist wrote, “2020 full of cruelties, including today's loss of Travis Roy. Travis exuded optimism, and purpose -- ever-diminishing qualities right now.” Another concurred, “Saddened to hear the news of Travis Roy's passing. I admired his courage and strength. I enjoyed being able to interview him a few times over the years. His legacy isn't just about 11 seconds, what he has done for spinal cord research will last forever.” A user wrote calling Roy a hero, “TRAVIS ROY: He was always there no matter what the conditions to cheer on the marathoners whether training on the course or running in the race. We lost a hero, leader, inspiration, friend, and all-around GOOD guy. He will be missed but not forgotten.”
Travis Roy's injury is one my earliest hockey memories. More than the injury, I remember being astounded at his immediate push to be a force for good in spite of what happened to him. Seeing his grace and will to help others over the last 25 years has been a gift for all of us.— Jason Silva (@JasonSilva67) October 30, 2020
2020 full of cruelties, including today's loss of Travis Roy.— Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) October 30, 2020
Travis exuded optimism, and purpose -- ever-diminishing qualities right now.
Saddened to hear the news of Travis Roy's passing. I admired his courage and strength. I enjoyed being able to interview him a few times over the years. His legacy isn't just about 11 seconds, what he has done for spinal cord research will last forever. pic.twitter.com/eNurFKPpuz— Scott Fleishman (@WCAX_Scott) October 30, 2020
TRAVIS ROY— Dave McGillivray (@DMSE) October 30, 2020
He was always there no matter what the conditions to cheer on the marathoners whether training on the course or running in the race. We lost a hero, leader, inspiration, friend, and all around GOOD guy. He will be missed but not forgotten. pic.twitter.com/NyEZZr5pSp