Paralyzed ex-BU hockey player Roy dies at 45

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

Former Boston University hockey player Travis Roy, who was paralyzed after an injury in 1995 and became a philanthropist for spinal cord injury treatment, has died at 45.

A family spokesperson told WCVB in Boston that Roy died in Vermont due to complications from a procedure he needed to maintain his quality of life.

Roy slid head-first into the boards just 11 seconds into his first shift for BU on Oct. 20, 1995. He cracked his fourth vertebrae which left him a quadriplegic. Roy had since regained movement in his right arm.

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,” Boston University said in a statement. “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. Our sincere thoughts are with his wonderful family as well as his vast support group of friends and colleagues.”

In 1997, Roy started “The Travis Roy Foundation” to help spinal cord injury survivors live more independent lives through adaptive equipment grants and funding scientific research.

The foundation has awarded over $4.7 million in research grants. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his injury, Boston University established a Travis Roy professorship in rehabilitation sciences with $2.5 million from anonymous donors for the foundation.

His story touched every corner of the hockey world, but resonated loudly in Boston. The Boston Bruins donated to his foundation through the years and in 2015 signed him to a one-day contract before he dropped the ceremonial puck prior to their home game. Boston mayor Marty Walsh also declared that Oct. 20 was “Travis Roy Day” in 2015.

From his wheelchair, he gave motivational speeches to help raise money for the foundation. The message he shared: Do the best with what you have and don’t dwell on your misfortune.

“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 said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly after turning 40. “The dream is to have both at the same time, but I’m fortunate. I’ll take either one.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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