Travis Roy Shares Story of Tragedy and Hope at Student Affairs Lecture

Travis Roy

Travis Roy, right, talks with SHU Men's Hockey Coach C.J. Marottolo

News Story: February 1, 2011

Travis Roy could not leave his chair – he has depended on a mechanized wheelchair for more than 15 years now – but he brought the full house at the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts to their feet after his presentation on Monday. Roy was 11 seconds into his first time on the ice as a freshman hockey player at Boston University – the top team in the country – when he smashed against the boards and broke his neck. The immediate result: quadriplegia. The long-term result: building a new set of dreams and, one by one, fulfilling them.

Roy had spent his entire life in pursuit of this goal: to play for a Division I team and then on to the National Hockey League – perhaps even a spot on the Olympic team. In 11 seconds, that dream was shattered along with his back. He was two months on a respirator and four months in bed. Eventually, what would once have seemed trivial goals were accomplished with great satisfaction, and he was able to see some progress. “It took me as long to get myself to lift a bagel to my mouth as it had taken to bench-press 175 pounds – but I did it!”

He credits his loving family and friends with getting him this far. “How could I not be positive with so much love surrounding me? People often ask me what would be the first thing I’d do if I could get out of this chair. The answer is simple: I’d hug my mom and my dad. Always let people you love know it.”

Travis Roy with SHU Hockey TeamAfter months of rehabilitation, Roy returned to his home in Maine. “The very first night I was home, as my parents got me dressed for bed, all of us were in tears. This was it: the way things would be for the rest of my life.” As he had all his life, Roy set new goals for himself. He returned to BU, where he eventually earned his bachelor’s in communications “ahead of some of my teammates!” he quipped. He wrote a book on his experiences, created a foundation that has raised millions for adaptive equipment and research, and is supporting himself.

He relives his trauma with audiences all over the country and admits it is bittersweet to think of those earlier days. “But I have goals. If you think you can’t make a difference, then let my life be your lesson. I’m still the same old Travis Roy I ever was, only now I am rolling through life instead of skating through it.”

The address was part of the Student Affairs Lecture Series.

*Photos by Lisa DeTullio Russell