Travis Roy, the Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first college shift and went on to become an advocate for spinal cord injury survivors both in and outside the sports world, has died. He was 45. His death was confirmed by the BU athletic department and the Travis Roy Foundation, the AP reports. “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,” the school 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 toward 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."
Roy was a 20-year-old freshman making his debut for the reigning NCAA champions in the 1995-96 season opener when he crashed headfirst into the boards after checking a North Dakota opponent. The accident left him a quadriplegic. From his wheelchair, he gave as many as 40 motivational speeches a year. 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,” he said in an interview with the AP shortly after turning 40. “The dream is to have both at the same time, but I’m fortunate. I’ll take either one.” Since he created the Travis Roy Foundation in 1997, it has raised more than $9 million—half for research, and half to provide equipment for those with spinal cord injuries. (Click for more on his life, and tributes from the NHL and its stars.)