Travis Roy’s life changed in 11 seconds. He was a freshman and a big-time hockey prospect at Boston University with sights on a future in the National Hockey League. Roy was making his first appearance on the ice for the Terriers on Oct. 20, 1995. Eleven seconds into his first shift, he fell awkwardly into the boards while attempting to check a North Dakota player. From that point, Roy has been confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.
Who is Travis Roy?
As a high school freshman, Travis Roy attended Yarmouth High School in Maine. With his hockey skills developing quickly, he transferred to North Yarmouth Academy with hopes of getting more notoriety and earning a hockey scholarship. Roy then transferred to Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, and earned a scholarship to Boston University.
During his first-ever shift at BU, Roy went in for a check 11 seconds into his shift, but North Dakota’s Mitch Vig avoided the hit and Roy crashed headfirst into the boards. As a result of hitting the boards, Roy shattered his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, damaging his spinal court. He was paralyzed from the neck down.
“I always tell people, whenever this subject comes up, is that the worst thing that ever happened to me as the coach of the Boston University hockey team is the injury to Travis Roy,” said BU’s legendary coach Jack Parker to ESPN. “And the best thing that’s ever happened to me as the coach of the Boston University hockey team is the way everyone responded to the injury to Travis Roy. The way the Boston University community rallied around Travis was just unbelievable.”
Roy makes a difference with the Travis Roy Foundation
Initially, Travis Roy wasn’t sure he wanted to live. He didn’t know if he would be a burden to his friends and loved ones. He had spent two months in intensive care on a ventilator and knew there was a pretty good chance he’d never walk again. After much thinking, crying, and reflecting, Roy realized his life still had value and he was going to make the best of it.
In 1997, Roy started the Travis Roy Foundation. It’s an organization that helps spinal cord injury survivors and funds research into a cure. According to travisroyfoundation.com, the foundation has awarded more than $2 million in research grants. That money will help researchers determine how cells in the central nervous system communicate with one another in hopes of finding a cure.
Half of the money raised by the Travis Roy Foundation also goes toward Quality of Life grants. That money helps paraplegics and quadriplegics find adaptive equipment for a better quality of life. The right wheelchair might be able to help someone become more independent.
Roy said those 11 seconds were the best of his life
Exactly 20 years after Roy’s life-changing incident, the Boston Bruins signed him to a one-day contract. Mayor Marty Walsh also declared October 20 “Travis Roy Day” in Boston, according to Bostonia, BU’s alumni magazine. That night in 2015, Roy celebrated his Travis Roy Foundation raising more than $6 million.
After struggling with his will to live after the incident, Roy, who does have use of his right arm, has come to realize the value in his life. “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,” he said. “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.”
He then flashed back to that life-changing day on the ice. He focused on the positive part, regardless of how short the moment was. “Twenty years ago tonight, I lived out my dream of playing Division I hockey,” he said. “The 11 seconds at Walter Brown Arena playing for Boston University were the best 11 seconds of my life.”