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Paralyzed ex-BU hockey player, spinal injury philanthropist Travis Roy dies at 45

Jason Owens
·3-min read

Travis Roy, a former Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed during his first and only college hockey game, died on Thursday at 45 years old.

A family spokesperson told BU that Roy died of complications from being a quadriplegic for 25 years.

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,” the BU announcement reads. “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.”

Roy suffered tragedy 11 seconds into college career

Roy was left paralyzed from the neck down after crashing head-first into the boards and cracking two vertebrae 11 seconds into his first shift with BU in 1995. He was a 20-year-old freshman. He eventually gained control of his right arm enough to maneuver a joystick that operated his wheelchair.

After the injury, Roy dedicated his life to raising awareness around spinal chord injuries and funds to advance research.

Travis Roy poses in his apartment in downtown Boston. Roy grew into a hockey standout in his first 20 years. He turned 40 on Friday, April 17, and has spent almost half his life in a wheelchair as a paraplegic after slamming into the boards 11 seconds into his first shift for national champion Boston University. He’s regained little movement since then but has helped and inspired others with his motivational speaking and foundation that provides equipment for victims of paralysis. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Travis Roy was paralyzed 11 seconds into his college debut. He dedicated his life to raising money for spinal cord injury research and equipment. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Roy’s foundation has raised more than $9M

He established the Travis Roy Foundation in 1997 that has raised more than $9 million that has been split evenly between research and equipment for those suffering from spinal chord injuries, according to the Associated Press. He also dedicated his time, giving up to 40 motivational speeches a year on the subject.

“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,” Roy told AP as he approached 40 years old. “The dream is to have both at the same time, but I’m fortunate. I’ll take either one.”

Tributes to Roy

BU retried his No. 24 in 1999. He received condolences from the hockey world on Thursday.

“Travis Roy was the ultimate symbol of determination and courage,” former Boston Bruins player and current team president Cam Neely said, per AP. “The impact that Travis had on the New England hockey community is immeasurable, and his relentless advocacy for spinal cord research was inspiring.”

Jack Jablonski, a Minnesota high school hockey star who was also paralyzed during a game in 2011, offered his condolences as well.

“Travis Roy, you were my friend, mentor, role model and the most positive person I knew,” Jablonski said. “You have forever changed the SCI and hockey community. Thank you for taking the time to get to know each other. U r my hero. RIP Travis.”

The Boston Red Sox also released a statement.

Roy is survived by his In addition to his sister, Tobi, his father, Lee, and his mother Brenda, as well as four nieces and nephews, according to BU.

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