Yarmouth native Travis Roy, whose promising college hockey career was cut short by a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic, has died at the age of 45.
According to WCVB TV in Boston, a family spokesman said Roy died Thursday in Vermont from complications resulting from a surgical procedure needed for him to sustain his quality of life. The station also reported that Roy recently had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and had been treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Roy was paralyzed on Oct. 20, 1995, when he fell head-first into the boards during his first shift in a Boston University uniform.
The Tabor Academy graduate wrote an inspirational memoir with E.M. Swift three years later called “11 Seconds: A story of Tragedy, Courage and Triumph,” which detailed his trials and tribulations and his amazing determination and resiliency.
It also outlined the outpouring of support he received from his family, girlfriend, friends and even those who never knew him.
“All those little sayings of never giving up, having a positive attitude, setting goals … I put them to use before my injury and I’ve put them to use since,” Roy said in 2016 prior to his induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
For more than 20 years, Roy dedicated himself to raising money for spinal cord injury research and to create awareness for paralysis causes through the Travis Roy Foundation.
He also became a well-known and inspirational motivational speaker.
“It was a lot more fun having a passion to play hockey, but the last 20 years I’ve found a purpose in trying to give back with the Travis Roy Foundation,” Roy said.
Boston University associate director for marketing and communications Brian Kelley said he couldn’t imagine a greater response to adversity than that which Roy demonstrated.
“He was a hero to everyone at BU, in Massachusetts, in the whole hockey community and across the country,” Kelley said. “He was an emotional part of our program for the past 25 years.
“And seeing his relationship with [former head coach] Jack Parker has been a privilege to witness. He was like a son to Jack,” Kelley said.
Roy was an engaging person who loved people, Kelley said.
“He always enjoyed talking to people and learning other people’s stories,” Kelley said. “He had the time for anyone. He was a celebrity of sorts.”
Roy cared deeply about the BU hockey program, often talking to Terrier players about the season.
“It was nice to catch some of the moments when he met our freshmen for the first time,” Kelley said.
Kelley said they have had several alumni hockey games in the summer to raise money for Roy’s Foundation and for the late Pete Frates’ ALS awareness campaign.
Frates, a former Boston College baseball star and captain, died in 2019 after a seven-year battle with the disease.
“It’s so sad that they are no longer with us,” Kelley said.