Former Boston University hockey player Travis Roy, who was paralyzed while sustaining an injury on the ice in 1995, died on Thursday. He was 45.
Boston University announced Roy's death. A family spokesman said Roy died in Vermont due to complications from a procedure that was intended to maintainhis quality of life.
"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."
Roy was paralyzed from the neck down on Oct. 20, 1995, during his first shift as a freshman forward for Boston University.
Just 11 seconds into his shift, he crashed headfirst into the boards and the impact shattered his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. Severe damage to his spinal cord left him a quadriplegic.
In the days following the injury, the 20-year-old Roy was breathing through a ventilator in the hospital and wondered whether life was worth living.
He found his answer and in 1996 started The Travis Roy Foundation to aid spinal cord survivors. The foundation's website says it has awarded more than $4.7 million in research grants.
In 2015, the Boston Bruins signed Roy to a one-day contract and he dropped the ceremonial puck prior to a home game. On the 20th anniversary of the injury, Boston mayor Marty Walsh declared it "Travis Roy Day."
Earlier this month, with the 25th anniversary approaching, Roy told the Boston Globe: "Sometimes I might be in a mood and might wish the moment didn't happen, and I wonder what life would have been. But it's a part of who I am."
Roy was adamant that people shouldn't feel sorry for him.
"I'm 45 years old. I know that's young but I do feel old," Roy said. "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."
The Bruins and USA Hockey were among the entities to pay tribute to Roy on Thursday.
"Travis Roy was the ultimate symbol of determination and courage," the Bruins said in a statement. "The impact that Travis had on the New England hockey community is immeasurable, and his relentless advocacy for spinal cord research was inspiring.
"The Bruins offer sincere condolences to the Roy family, the Travis Roy Foundation, Boston University, and all of those who knew and loved Travis Roy."
Said USA Hockey: "We are saddened to hear about the passing of Travis Roy, who transformed his personal tragedy into a beacon of hope for millions of people in the game beyond."
--Field Level Media