IN MEMORIAM: Travis Roy’s short career led to longer-term impact on game of college hockey

Travis Roy played 11 seconds for Boston University in his lone game 25 years ago this month (photo: Travis Roy Foundation).

There may be no man who has ever had a shorter college hockey career.

And there is likely no college hockey player who ever had more of an impact.

Travis Roy, whose entire college hockey career lasted just 11 seconds before he was tragically paralyzed, died on Thursday at the age of 45 from complications related to a surgical procedure.

To say it left the college hockey world – and better said a large part of this entire world – devastated in hardly hyperbole.

I never had the opportunity to get to know Travis Roy well. I enjoyed the couple of times we met for brief moments. But having personally been around the college hockey game since Travis’ tragic accident in October 1995, I know thousands of people both in hockey and out who have been impacted by Travis Roy and the work he has done.

So simple would it have been for Travis Roy to simply disappear from the limelight. The son of a former college hockey player, Lee Roy, Travis was somewhat diminutive in stature when he arrived at Boston University in the fall of 1995. His injury came as he tried to lay a body check on a North Dakota player, a display of the spunk and grit that made him so desirable to college coaches.

Well documented to this day, Roy lost his balance and went head first into the boards, creating a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic using only his fingers and mouth to function for the remainder of his life.

Instead of sulking, Roy proved his character from just seconds after the injury.

I remember hearing his father, Lee, speak at a charity event in Connecticut in the summer of 1997. Travis, himself, had hoped to speak that day but wasn’t feeling well. Lee, though, recounted the moments immediately following the injury, still being placed on a stretcher and backboard at Walter Brown Arena.

“I made it,” were the words the Travis said to his father.

Many who knew Travis well prior to him matriculating at Boston University recount how his goal in life was to play college hockey. His message to his father proved that success.

Little did anyone know or understand that those words had so much more meaning.

The reality is, if Travis Roy uttered those words in the days or minutes before his passing – “I made it” – no words would hold more truth.

Travis Roy and Jay Pandolfo share a laugh after the 2018 Battle of Comm Ave charity game (photo: BU Athletics).

Travis Roy accomplished so much in the 25 years since his accident.

No day was ever easy. His life required 24-hour care. He needed assistance with anything that you and I may take for granted.

But in those 25 years, Travis Roy became a collegiate graduate, a motivational speaker, a philanthropist and, more than anything, an inspiration to the thousands upon thousands of people whose life he touched. His foundation has raised millions for spinal cord research and will continue to do so in his passing hoping to achieve his goal of those suffering an injury similar to his would never need a wheelchair.

Travis’ life ended just nine days after the 25th anniversary of the accident that changed his life. Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen spoke to him recently for a feature than ran in the newspaper last week.

In that piece, Travis had a quote that personally moved me: “I’m 45 years old. I know that’s young. But I do feel old. There are things that wear you down when you live in a wheelchair for 25 years. But I have been so fortunate, and all the people who have helped me are still with me. There are people that are so worse off than me, and I want to help them.”

Travis, tonight we all mourn the fact that you’re no longer with us. We were the ones who felt fortunate to be around you. And I believe we all hope that tonight you feel like a young man ready to lace on the skates again for the great hockey team upstairs.

We love you, Travis Roy. Rest in peace.