In an ideal world, the ceremony would have been to commemorate Travis Roy’s All-America plaque joining the pantheon of BU greats at the entrance to Walter Brown Arena.
In an ideal world, the extended ovation and chants of “Travis! Travis! Travis!” would have brought only smiles and not a pungent mixture of smiles and salty tears. And in an ideal world, Travis Roy would have acknowledged the cheers with a wave of his hand, hugged his father, mother and sister and then taken his seat, knowing that later he could walk out of the arena and down to T. Anthony’s or T’s Pub.
But it isn’t always an ideal world. And life sometimes is very bleeping unfair. Sometimes the true heroes have to shoot for sights a good deal lower than what they originally expected.
On this evening, Boston University celebrated just such a hero, retiring Travis Roy’s jersey and, with it, the number 24. A banner now hangs from Walter Brown Arena signifying the first number the hockey program has ever retired.
“It was awesome,” said Travis. “I’ve really wanted to turn the page. There have been a lot of sad times, but this is a happy moment. Now it’s time to turn the page and be proud of everything that has gone on here.
“I love this place. I love BU hockey. I love Coach [Jack] Parker. I couldn’t be surrounded by a better group of people. … They’re amazing … and wonderful people.
“They have no idea how it’s been for them to continue to support me and to acknowledge me and just be so kind in everything they do. It’s a cliche, but you just can’t say enough. It’s a wonderful area we live in and people should be proud of what they’ve done and how they’ve handled me.”
After losing his original freshman year to the rehabilitation that followed his spinal cord injury, Travis has maintained a pace of studies that will see him graduate this year with a degree in Communications and Public Relations.
“My first freshman year was a wipeout, but since then I’ve done it in four years,” he said. “I’m awfully proud of that.
“I’m one to set goals and I’m one to accomplish goals. That goal was set early on [so] I guess it doesn’t surprise me that I pulled that one off.”
It’s an accomplishment that understandably fills his parents with great pride.
“It would have been real easy to pack it in in his situation or anybody who is faced with this kind of physical setback,” said Lee Roy, Travis’ father. “Just pack your bag and head on home.
“He hasn’t been home in a long time,” said Lee Roy with a laugh, “and that’s great. He’s doing very well down here.
“There’s a great deal of pride, obviously, but there’s the disappointment that Travis didn’t have the chance to do what he wanted to do on the ice. Obviously, for Jack Parker and the rest of the Boston University community to honor Travis in this way…it couldn’t be any better. But at the same time it’s very bittersweet.
“For me, the heartbreak is that the record book will show that Travis played one game with a 0-0-0 [scoring line]. Over the past four years, there were the hopes that somehow, someway he wouldn’t be remembered as a player who played one game.
“But there’s a lot of pride in what he’s been able to accomplish, to have over a 3.0 average, make the Dean’s List last semester and to graduate in four years when you discount the one year of rehab. I’m so very proud of what he’s done and the way that he’s done it.”
Since his injury, Travis has become a tremendous source of inspiration to others who have suffered a similar fate.
“In some ways I’ve been put in that role,” he said. “I’ve always enjoying being in a leadership role. I always cherished being captain of the teams that I was on.
“It’s certainly a different team that I’m leading now. But if I can be inspirational and put a positive spin on people in wheelchairs and paralysis, I [might even] help out my own cause and hopefully get out of this chair someday.”
Travis is still taking a wait-and-see approach as to what the future holds for him after graduation. But it doesn’t necessarily include hockey.
“I still love the sport,” he said. “It was a fluke accident. But there’s definitely some sadness. I’m just trying to figure out a way to enjoy it. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it as much as I did when I was playing the sport, but I guess I’m looking for the next best thing.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Getting away [from hockey] for a little bit, basically I’m trying to open as many doors as I can and see what’s out there and see what I’d like to do.
“I’d like to be one of those few people who wake up nowadays and feels passionate about their job and can’t wait to get to it. I’ve just got to figure out what it’s going to be.”
In the meantime, he’s taking one day at a time.
“I live on a lot of cliches that you hear every day, but they work,” he said. “So it’s one day at a time and you just try to keep a smile on your face.
“I’m doing my best. There are the ups and downs still, but there are a lot more ups [now]. I still have my struggles, but school is going well and I’ll be graduating in May.
“I’ve got a long life ahead of me and I’m really looking forward to it.”