Death of Travis Roy shakes and inspires Brookline hockey community


Contributed by Jacob Gurdin

Travis Roy has made a profound impact on the lives of many hockey players and those with spinal cord injuries. He is honored within the BHS hockey community.

11 seconds into his first game as a BU hockey player in 1995, Travis Roy slammed into the boards and fell onto the ice. The fall took his mobility from the neck down, but it ignited a motivational force within him that inspired, supported and uplifted countless people.

This year on Oct. 29, news broke that Roy had passed away. It shattered the hearts of many who had known or heard of him. His immeasurable contributions are cemented in each of their lives and memories, wrapped and sealed in his resilient, passionate spirit. His loss is devastating, but the ones who loved him find solace in his powerful legacy.

Junior Jacob Gurdin had an especially close relationship with Roy. Gurdin organized a charity hockey tournament as his bar mitzvah project to raise money for the Travis Roy Foundation. In addition to his profound impact on spinal cord research and providing adaptive equipment, Roy’s vibrant and heartening personality and strong will left a lasting impression on the many people he spoke to.

“Travis was always smiling, always happy. Every speech he had was inspiring. Every time anyone met him, he would inspire them. Even though he was in a wheelchair, couldn’t walk and lost the game he loved, he was always working for others. He always lit up the room,” Gurdin said.

Senior Ellis Vish remembers Roy as a kind, admirable and personable man to be around.

“One time, we went downtown to his office and we all sat around his table. It was just like we were having a conversation with another friend, because he’s still a hockey player. He didn’t feel like an adult to me by any means, just another guy we could talk to,” Vish said.

Gurdin said his presence was calming, reassuring and kind. It wasn’t a result of his condition, rather a fundamental aspect of who he was.

“My first time meeting him, I remember I was super nervous. Right when we walked in, he started talking and I wasn’t nervous anymore,” Gurdin said.

Roy’s impact was recognized by everyone, including senior Jack O’Brien.

“I met Travis for the first time during our Travis Roy game. I was out with an injury, so I got to stay with him for a while. Being able to talk to him was very moving, and he talked a lot about what the game meant to him and how to cherish the moments you’re in now,” O’Brien said. “His legacy will be as one of the most charitable and inspirational people in the hockey community.”

Vish finds Roy’s story extremely saddening, but his passion for his goals to generate aid for people suffering spinal cord injuries rallied support and an understanding of privilege for those around him.

“He’s made me realize how much I have and how lucky I am to be where I am today. My family is safe, and I don’t have to deal with what he went through. He’s taught me that you can’t live life looking behind you, because it can be taken away from you at any second. It’s really important to stay focused on what’s going on now instead of the future or the past,” Vish said.

Through his unwillingness to concede to his condition, Roy was and continues to be a role model for so many people.

“He could have just given up and never done anything with his life, but he showed us the importance of living with both a passion and a purpose,” Gurdin said.

The loss of Roy is tragic, and it has been recognized and grieved by so many. For Gurdin, much of this devastation is pushed into a source of determination and drive for the goals the Travis Roy Foundation pursued.

“He showed me the importance of helping other people. He was the most selfless person and he taught me that as well. It’s definitely a big loss, not having him around, not having him there to speak and inspire us,” Gurdin said. “I’m going to do the best I can to carry on his legacy and continue to work for the foundation. He always said that hopefully one day he would get out of his wheelchair. Hopefully someday his work will help other people get out of theirs.”

Junior Jacob Gurdin stands with Travis Roy. (Contributed by Jacob Gurdin )