A promising US ice hockey player who was paralysed 11 seconds into his first college game and went on to become a high-profile disability campaigner has died at the age of 45.
Travis Roy has been hailed as “a special man” and “the epitome of inspiration and courage” in tributes mourning his death on Thursday.
Roy was aged just 20, making his debut for then reigning champions Boston University (BU) in the 1995-96 season opener, when he crashed headfirst into the rink boards.
The accident left him a quadriplegic, but he then dedicated his life to helping other spinal cord injury survivors both in and outside the sports world, giving as many as 40 motivational speeches a year.
The Travis Roy Foundation, created in 1997, went on to raise more than $9m (£7m), which was divided equally between research and providing specialist equipment for those who had sustained spinal cord injuries.
In an interview he gave shortly after turning 40, Roy said: “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.
“The dream is to have both at the same time, but I’m fortunate. I’ll take either one.”
Confirming his death, Boston University’s athletic department said: “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy.
“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.”
Offering it condolences, the National Hockey League (NHL) called Roy “a special man who responded to his devastating injury by dedicating himself to serving others”.
Cam Neely, president and former star of the Boston Bruins ice hockey team, said: “Travis Roy was the ultimate symbol of determination and courage.”
Jack Jablonski, a Minnesota high school hockey star who was also left paralysed after a hockey collision, wrote on Twitter: “Travis Roy, you were my friend, mentor, role model and the most positive person I knew.”
Former US Olympic ice hockey captain Mike Eruzione said: “It’s so sad for so many reasons – not just the athletic end of it, but what his life could have been.
“To see a life changed in such a direction because of 11 seconds.
“But what he did with it afterward was incredible. Such an inspiration. He could have folded the tent. He could have said, ‘This is it.’ But he chose another path in his life, and he raised millions of dollars.”
Roy was the son of a Maine hockey rink manager who began skating when he was 20 months old.
Boston University retired Roy’s No 24 jersey in 1999.
Among the players on the 1995-96 college team were future NHLers Chris Drury, Jay Pandolfo, Shawn Bates and Mike Grier.