THERE WAS AN UNWRITten rule in the Roy household: No lying down
on the ice. Ever since Travis was three, a towheaded bug of a
kid playing for his father's Mite team, he was taught that if he
got knocked down, or if he tumbled into the boards, or if he got
whacked in the ankle by a puck, he should bounce back up. His
dad, Lee, a former MVP at the University of Vermont, wouldn't
stand for the theatrics some kids pulled, collapsing at the
first sting of pain as if they'd been felled by a splitting
maul. "Get up, you're not hurt," Lee would say, a Yankee accent
flavoring the reproach, a smile creasing his gentle face.
This is an article from the Nov. 20, 1995 issue
Lee was famous for these words in Maine, where for the last
20-plus years he has been Mr. Youth Hockey, helping to found the
Portland Youth Hockey Association in 1972, managing four
different rinks in the southern part of the state, coaching kids
from Mite to college age, running summer hockey camps,
sharpening skates, driving the Zamboni. Get up, you're not hurt.
It was right there in Travis Matthew Roy's scrapbook, a city
phone book-sized compilation of hockey clippings, programs,
photos and award certificates that Travis had saved over the
years. In one early entry he had pasted in a picture of his dad
with a cartoon balloon coming out of his mouth that read, "Get
up, you're not hurt. Get up."
And Travis always did. One time, when he was about 12, he skated
past the bench during a game and yanked off a glove so his dad
could see the blood dripping from the tip of one of his fingers.
"What do I do?" Travis asked.
"What do you mean?" Lee replied, having ascertained that the
wound was a long way from the boy's heart. "There's a shift
going on." Travis slid the glove back on and kept playing.
Which was why, on Friday, Oct. 20, as Travis lay motionless on
the ice of Boston University's Walter Brown Arena, just 1:56
into the opening period of the season, those who knew him felt a
cold wave of panic. Travis had never lain on the ice. No coach
who'd ever had him--not his father, not any of his three high
school mentors and certainly not BU coach Jack Parker--had ever
had to go out onto the ice to help Travis Roy to his feet.
Never. The worst injury Travis had ever had in hockey was a
sprained knee. But 11 seconds into his first shift of his first
college game--minutes after the Terriers had unfurled their 1995
national championship banner--with his family in the stands and
the last of his high school coaches proudly looking on, Travis
lost his balance while trying to put a little something extra
into a check. He hit the end boards with the top of his helmet
and fell to the ice like a rag doll, utterly inert.
"It looked scary," says Tim Pratt, Travis's coach for two years
at Tabor Academy, a boarding school in Marion, Mass. Pratt had
driven up to see his former star player's first Division I game.
"I cringed," he says. "But I've been around hockey my whole
life. You're used to scary moments that turn out all right. But
the longer it went on, the scarier it became."
"I thought it was a shoulder or an arm," says Brenda Roy,
Travis's mother, an assistant high school principal. "We're
trained after all these years that if the boy goes down, you
sit. Lee never panics. But Lee went down to the ice fairly
quickly. I thought, If it's a shoulder, darn, he'll miss a few
games. Maybe the season. After all that hard work. Then my
daughter, Tobi, said she wasn't going to sit there any longer,
and she went down. I told her I'd wait. I was still thinking,
He'll roll over. Then Lee called me down, and I knew it must
really be something."
Tobi, Travis's older (by three years) sister, is a neonatal
nurse at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital. She was watching Travis
as he tried to check a North Dakota defenseman to the left of
the visitors' net. "He fell straight down and didn't move," Tobi
says. "He didn't pull his legs in. He wasn't writhing. When my
dad went down to the ice, I knew this was different, because
he'd never done that. I stayed for a while in my seat, then the
nursing side of me kicked in. I realized if Trav wasn't moving,
we were dealing with the neck or the head. That's when I decided
to go down. When I got there, my dad had tears in his eyes, and
I knew we were in trouble."
One of Travis's roommates, defenseman Dan Ronan, was on the ice
when the accident happened. "He was lying so still, I
automatically thought he'd been KO'd, because his chin was flat
on the ice," Ronan says. "That ice is cold. I was thinking, If
he were conscious, he'd get his chin off the ice. But when I
finally went over to him, I saw his eyes were wide open."
Parker didn't see the play. He was reading the riot act to one
of his players, who had celebrated excessively after scoring to
give BU a 1-0 lead just 1:45 into the game. Then he saw Travis
sprawled on the ice. "The way he was lying there, I thought
there was a major problem," says Parker. "I was hoping he was
knocked out, because there was no movement at all. Many times a
guy will go into the boards, and it looks scary, and I always
think: Move your legs. I walked around to the end of the rink
where it happened. I saw he was talking. I never had one before
where the legs weren't moving and the guy was talking."
Lee Roy, too, had walked down to the end of the rink. He
replayed the missed check in his mind. Travis had wanted to pop
somebody right off, to show that he belonged. Someone came up to
Lee and said, "Are you Mr. Roy? Travis wants to talk to you."
Lee shuffled onto the ice, hoping his son had suffered a broken
arm or a separated shoulder. Deep down, though, he must have
known. "I think Travis was looking for a friendly face," he
says. "I wanted to sound upbeat, so I said, 'Hey, boy, let's get
going. There's a hockey game to play.' But when I got down on
the ice next to him, he said, 'Dad, I'm in deep ----. I can't
feel my arms or legs. My neck hurts.' I was trying to think of
something positive to say back. Then Travis looked me right in
the eyes and said, 'But Dad. I made it.'" Lee's pale blue eyes
fill with tears as he recounts this, and shaking his head, he
starts to weep. "I said, 'You're right, son. You did.' It didn't
last long. Eleven seconds. But he made it."
Travis Roy would cringe if you were to describe him as a rink
rat. He loved hockey, but to those who knew him, there was
always much more to Travis than hockey. "There'll be other kids
who come to Tabor who're as good hockey players as Travis," says
Pratt, "but none who are more complete as human beings."
Travis won the school art award for ceramics, and he was often
found on weekday nights last spring working at the wheel, making
small ceramic gifts--coffee mugs and colorful fish--for teachers
and friends. Once when his Spanish teacher at Tabor had to leave
class to tend to an emergency, it was Travis she left in charge.
He was co-captain and all-New England in soccer, a sport he had
been reluctant even to try out for, fearing that he would fall
behind academically. He played on the Tabor golf team. Humble
and kind, he endeared himself to awestruck underclassmen by
greeting them by name in the halls, whether they played sports
or not. And he was funny. He once tied the manager of the hockey
team to a chair in study hall, a message that it was time for
the manager to hit the books.
"He hated the image of a one-dimensional person," says Matt
Perrin, one of Travis's best friends at Tabor and a teammate in
both hockey and soccer. "We'd talk about anything but athletics.
He was so mature. Such a leader."
Yet in his early years Travis was the embodiment of a rink rat.
How could he not have been? Lee, who had grown up in Swampscott,
Mass., and starred in hockey at Vermont from 1964-65 to '67-68,
became the first manager of the first indoor rink in Portland,
Maine, the Riverside Ice Arena, in 1972. Maine had always been a
basketball hotbed in the winter, and men of Lee's background in
hockey were few and far between in the early '70s. When the man
who had built the Riverside rink went bankrupt in '74, Lee and
Brenda moved to Farmingdale, and Lee managed the Kennebec Ice
Arena, in nearby Hallowell, for 2 1/2 years. Travis was born on
April 17, 1975. In the summer of the next year, the Roys were
lured south to Yarmouth when Lee was offered the job of managing
the new North Yarmouth Academy rink. It was there that he put
Travis, age 20 months, on the ice for the first time, shod in a
pair of Riedell figure skates 3 1/2 inches long. True to the lore
surrounding every hockey family, Travis took right to the ice,
walking across it as if he were wearing sneakers. "He's a
natural," a friend of the family said. "He'll be a hockey player."
There were so few kids in the Yarmouth area who were interested
in hockey that Lee was unable to field a pre-Mite team. So
Travis spent five years, beginning at age three, skating with
boys who were as old as eight. Lee was the coach. Travis would
play forward one year and then move back to defense the next, a
rotation that continued each time the father and son moved up an
age group--through Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantams and Midgets. Travis
was always among the best players but never one who could skate
through the other team each time he touched the puck. Lee knew
that if Travis learned both offense and defense, he would better
understand the game.
In 1979 Lee was hired as assistant director of operations at the
Cumberland Civic Center. The Maine Mariners, the top minor
league affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, played there, and
on weekends Lee and Travis would make the 15-minute drive from
Yarmouth to the Civic Center to see the Mariners practice. Lee
would send the five-year-old Travis into the locker room armed
with books of raffle tickets--90% of the proceeds to pay for
Travis's youth hockey expenses--and a half hour later he would
emerge with empty books of stubs and $200 in cash. Flyer honchos
such as Fred Shero, Keith Allen and Jacques Plante would see
this little blond kid with bright eyes and a big smile coming,
and they would start ragging on Lee: "Give us a break, eh?"
Their hands were already reaching for their billfolds. They
couldn't say no to Travis.
When Travis was seven, Tom McVie, a gravel-throated, big-hearted
man who'd already had two coaching stints in the NHL, was
general manager and coach of the Mariners. He took Travis under
his wing. He called the boy Clifford, the only nickname Travis
has ever had. Lee still doesn't know the derivation of the name.
McVie made Travis a stickboy, though he was barely big enough to
carry one regulation stick, never mind 15 or 20. But the players
liked having him around, and Travis did what he could to help
out, filling water bottles, fetching tape, delivering gum to the
bench. He watched the games from the penalty box. The players
gave him spare hockey sticks, and to this day Travis has a
basement full of sticks signed by players who went on to play in
the NHL--Billy Barber, Lindsay Carson, Bob Froese, Kelly Hrudey,
Chico Resch, Bruce Shoebottom--and many others who never made it.
McVie was succeeded by a series of coaches who were also bound
for the NHL (John Paddock, Mike Milbury, Rick Bowness, E.J.
McGuire), and for nine years Travis worked for all of them. "It
was an endless wealth of hockey information he was exposed to,"
Lee says. "He was in the locker room before and after the games,
between periods. He heard the pep talks, the strategy. I can't
imagine there are three kids in the U.S. who had the hockey
tutelage he did."
Sometimes Travis was allowed to skate after practice with the
players who stayed on the ice for extra work. He made a few road
trips too: one to Hershey, Pa., another to Montreal. Travis knew
which stories stayed in the locker room and which ones he could
bring home. "It was as if he was part of the team," says
Milbury, now coach of the New York Islanders. Milbury threw a
legendary tantrum while with the Mariners. During a game he
deposited every movable object from the bench onto the Civic
Center ice--helmets, sticks, water bottles, gloves. The next day
the Portland Press Herald ran a photo of a small blond stickboy,
age 12, struggling to clean up the sea of debris. (It has been
preserved in Travis's scrapbook.) When he finished, the crowd
gave him an ovation. "He was just a peach of a kid," Milbury
says. "And back then you knew that playing for a guy like Jack
Parker was exactly where he was headed."
"All those years as a stickboy, he was picking up his master's
degree in hockey," says Jack O'Brien, Travis's coach his
freshman year at Yarmouth High. Travis didn't have great speed.
And he was always small for his age. But it was his
understanding of the game, his anticipation of what would happen
next, that set him apart. O'Brien remembers the first time he
saw Travis play. "Every year we have a day when the
eighth-graders skate with the high school team to see what
prospects are coming up," he says. "The first 10 minutes Travis
was on the ice, my son, who assisted me, said, 'I believe you
have another Division I prospect.' I asked him which one. 'The
little white-haired kid. He sees the ice better than most
As a 5'3", 120-pound freshman, Travis played on the first line
with two seniors. "When Travis talked about the things we should
be doing as a team, it was clear he knew the game better than
anyone else," O'Brien says. "He knew it like the coaches knew
it. The only question mark was his size."
Travis thrived under the direction of O'Brien, a former Marine
who preached hard work, discipline and respect. O'Brien also
talked to his players about setting goals. One night when Travis
was 14, he sat down and made a list. Then he went into the
living room and asked his parents if he could speak with them.
Lee and Brenda had no idea what was coming. "He wanted to go
over what he considered his goals in life and what it would take
to achieve them," Lee says. "He told us he wanted to get a good
education, to be a Division I college hockey player and to have
the opportunity to play pro hockey. Just the opportunity. He
realized from his years with the Mariners that pro hockey was
not glamorous. He knew it was a meat market, and he wanted an
education to fall back on."
Yarmouth High played Class B hockey in Maine. Nearby North
Yarmouth Academy played Class A. So before his sophomore year,
Travis switched schools. It wasn't exactly traumatic. Both teams
played at the North Yarmouth Academy rink, which was managed by
Lee, who'd returned there after seven years with the Civic
Center. Travis spent nearly as much time at the rink as his
father. He helped sharpen skates, drove the Zamboni, scraped the
ice along the boards. Many nights Lee gave Travis the keys to
the rink, so he could work out by himself or with a friend and
then lock up. "He'd go over to that rink night after night and
just play," Brenda says. "He also played soccer. He was a great
runner. The only ski race he ever entered, he won. But hockey
was his love."
"Growing up the son of a rink manager was almost like the old
days when players learned the game on a pond," says Kevin
Potter, who coached Travis at North Yarmouth Academy. "But Lee
never pushed him. If Travis wanted to do it, fine."
Potter was immediately struck by the leadership qualities Travis
brought to his new team. "His sophomore year the team captain
came in after a bad period and broke his stick on the wall,"
Potter says. "Travis stood up and said, 'This is not what we
need right now.' He's a sophomore, right? But he took control of
the locker room, channeled that energy in a positive way. His
enthusiasm and spirit were catching, and he brought everyone
along with him. I played hockey at Bowdoin, and I can honestly
say that Travis, as a sophomore in high school, had the greatest
hockey sense of anyone I've ever played with. There's no
question, down the road, he'd have been a coach. He will be a
coach. Hockey will always be a big part of his life."
In his junior year at North Yarmouth Academy, Travis made first
team all-state as a forward. But when the Panthers played in
out-of-state tournaments, he saw that he was a big fish in a
small pond. "Every kid says, 'I want to play hockey for the
Bruins,'" says Brenda, "but Lee kept turning that back at
Travis: 'What are you going to do to get there? You have to work
at it.' Travis realized that. He wanted to play Division I
hockey, and he knew what they were doing in Maine wasn't what
they were doing in Massachusetts. Nobody came to North Yarmouth
Academy to recruit. He had to go to a place where people would
He decided to apply to Tabor and repeat his junior year. Tabor's
hockey team had gone 27-2-1 in 1992-93, losing in the semifinals
of the New England Prep School championship. Potter vividly
remembers when Travis told him of his decision to leave North
Yarmouth Academy. "He said he had a goal, and he needed to make
another step before he could reach it," says Potter. "All I
could tell him was, 'Follow your dreams, Travis.' He didn't want
to be the best player on the team anymore. He'd rather have been
an average player trying to get better, even if it meant playing
on the third or fourth line."
But every time Travis went up a level, he met the challenge.
There would be no fourth-line stints in his future. The summer
of 1993, before enrolling at Tabor, Travis tried out for the
prestigious Hockey Night in Boston summer league. Every top
prospect in the Northeast tries out, and college coaches from
all over scout the league. The year before, as a 17-year-old,
Travis had been cut. Now, at 18, he was the last forward
selected by the team representing northern New England. "A new
resolve came out of that," Lee recalls. "He was going to prove
to those people who chose him that he deserved to play."
Travis helped lead northern New England to a surprising
second-place finish in the monthlong league tournament, notching
a hat trick in the semifinals that included the overtime
game-winner. He had 12 goals and 22 assists in 13 games, third
best among all scorers. The next year he was one of six players
chosen by the Hockey Night in Boston coaching staff as the best
pro prospects. He was the only one of the six who hadn't been
A few weeks before Travis entered Tabor, the Roys found out that
the hockey coach was not returning. Alarmingly, most of the team
was leaving with him. Only two regulars from that powerhouse
27-2-1 squad were coming back. "Most of the kids bailed out on
the basis of rumors that the program was disintegrating,"
recalls Pratt, who was asked to take over the Tabor hockey
program. "It just spoke of Travis's character that he was one of
the very few kids who stuck it out."
So Travis was again the best player on his hockey team. The
competition, though, was everything he'd hoped to find by going
to Massachusetts. His junior year Tabor had an 8-14-2 record,
but its season was made when the team won the Avon Christmas
tournament, upsetting Avon Old Farms, which had beaten Tabor in
the semifinals of the New England Prep School championship the
year before. "There were people who thought we might not win a
game that first year," Pratt says. "Travis didn't have a lot to
work with around him, but he was the guy who put the puck in the
net, and the kids looked up to him. He became the leader pretty
His senior year, when Travis was captain, the team improved to
12-14-1. Over the two years he had 50 goals and 43 assists in 51
games, despite the fact that every team keyed on him. He was
difficult to knock off the puck--a little guy who played big--and
was one of those rare players who, when there was a mad scramble
in front, always seemed to come away with the goal. "He was way
above average in the tight-area skills," Parker says.
But it was what coaches call the intangibles that really set
Travis apart. "He was such a valuable role model," Pratt says.
"I remember thinking that I was blessed that he came when he
did. He'd never say anything negative to a teammate. We needed
someone we could point to and say, 'That's what Tabor hockey is
all about.' And that was Travis. He saved the hockey program."
Academics were never Travis's strong suit, but if there were
smarter kids at Tabor, none worked harder or was more
conscientious. Travis was an overachiever. When he needed help
with schoolwork, he sought it out. Travis became one of the most
highly recruited schoolboy hockey players in the country.
Fifteen Division I colleges contacted him. He eventually
narrowed his choices to BU, Maine, New Hampshire and his
father's alma mater, Vermont.
"To give you an idea what I thought of him," says Shawn Walsh,
head coach at Maine, the 1993 national champion, "I was at his
house at 8 a.m. on July 1, which is the first day you're allowed
to offer a scholarship. I told Lee I'd give Travis four years at
a full ride. He was only the second Maine kid I'd ever made that
offer to. Travis has a keenness about him that you look for.
When he finally chose BU--and he explained to me that he wanted
the experience of living in Boston--what hurt the most was
knowing that the kid's even a better person than he was a
Last April 17, on his 20th birthday, Travis addressed the Tabor
school at morning assembly. As the oldest member of the student
body, he had some thoughts he wanted to share. He started
humorously, recounting a checkered past that included being held
back in kindergarten, melting crayons on radiators, buying
cigarettes, being the first in his class to have a driver's
license, and attempting to pass himself off as a Deadhead. But
then this self-described "baby-faced old man" offered a list of
10 rules he had found to be important in life.
For the next 10 minutes, he touched all the bases that a parent
or educator would like to see touched: Be yourself. Don't take
things for granted. Set goals. Resist peer pressure. Cherish
your friendships. Take pride in yourself and your associations.
Love your family. Keep yourself open to learning new lessons. On
the matter of respect, Travis said, "Some people believe that
you earn respect. I disagree. I believe that everyone should
start out with the same amount of respect, and it is theirs to
lose...whether they're young or old." On the subject of love
he said, "I've learned there are many different types of love:
love for sports, love for friends, love for girlfriends and love
for family. I also feel that everybody has their own definition
of love, and there is no right or wrong way to love. I do know
that love comes from deep within, and nobody can tell you whom
to love and whom not to love. The last thing I've learned about
love is that it's a continuous lesson, and I will always keep
learning about it and from it." When Travis had finished, the
assemblage sat for a moment in silence and then burst into
sustained applause. This was not your ordinary jockspeak. Those
who heard the speech still shake their heads at the memory.
Travis took a job in Boston the summer after graduating from
Tabor so he could lift weights under the supervision of BU
conditioning coach Mike Boyle. One of only six freshmen who'd
been given full scholarships, Travis was determined to make a
good first impression so he could dress for the first game. He'd
never been one for lifting, which was apparent from his 5'11",
166-pound physique. But he knew he needed more strength to play
effectively in Division I. Tobi, whose apartment was within
sight of Travis's dorm, recalls his describing a particularly
loathsome routine called Russian circuits, in which the players
held 35-pound disks and did squats, straight-arm extensions and
curls with them for 25 minutes at a clip. "Each time I saw him
he was bigger and more defined," she says. "You'd go to hug him,
and it was a different hug every time."
His teammates immediately gravitated to him. He wasn't cocky or
loud. He worked hard. He was friendly. One of his roommates,
Scott King, didn't believe Travis was a hockey player when they
met. Travis was too nice.
The first official day of practice for the Terriers came on Oct.
4 with Midnight Madness, an event adapted from college
basketball. Brenda and Lee made the drive down from Yarmouth.
"The arena was almost full," Brenda recalls. "They were playing
We Are the Champions. It was fun. Travis had worked so hard, and
we weren't going to miss a thing."
Tobi, too, was in the stands for Midnight Madness, even though
she had a nursing shift starting at 7 a.m. After missing
Travis's entire high school career while she was studying at
Syracuse, she was thrilled to have her brother playing right
down the street. Tobi and her fiance, Keith Vanorden, had even
put off their wedding to accommodate the BU hockey schedule.
They had planned to get married this fall but had postponed the
wedding until spring, so Travis wouldn't have to miss any games.
In the early practices Travis impressed Parker with his hockey
sense. "He was real well schooled in all three zones, which is
very unusual for a freshman," Parker says. When it came time for
the new players to select numbers, Parker steered Travis toward
24, since the number he had worn at Tabor, 14, was already
taken. "We've had some guys with real character wear that
number," Parker says. Last year's captain, Jacques Joubert, had
worn 24. So had Mike Sullivan, the Terrier captain in '89-90,
who is now a forward for the Calgary Flames. That's who Travis
reminded Parker of: Sullivan. "Travis would have been a real
good player in this league," Parker says, "and historically that
means he'd have had a shot at the NHL."
It was all coming true, just the way Travis had planned it when
he drew up his list of goals at age 14. Parker had decided to
rotate his freshmen in and out of the lineup for the first few
games. Two days before the opener against North Dakota, he gave
Travis the news: He would be skating that first night on a line
with Chris Drury and Mike Sylvia, two sophomore lettermen of
considerable talent. Later that day Tobi discovered Travis
working on an English paper at her kitchen table, listening to
Vivaldi at full volume. "He was so wired," she says. "It meant
the world to him that he'd play the night they dropped the
Even better, Parker had told Travis he would skate on the first
line with Terrier captain Jay Pandolfo and assistant captain Bob
Lachance in the second game. It would be played at Vermont,
where Lee Roy is a member of the athletic Hall of Fame. "He'd
have been introduced in the starting lineup," says Lee, "with
his father in the crowd with tears in his eyes. Storybook."
Except, as was so cruelly reinforced 11 seconds into Travis's
college career, with his loved ones looking on and his dreams
slipping out of his motionless fingers, life is no storybook.
It's page after page of land mines and small jewels, a volume of
survival without a back cover to foretell the end. Travis knew.
Set goals, he'd told his schoolmates in his speech six months
earlier. But take nothing for granted.
The Roys learned the worst that first night, after X-rays had
been taken at Boston City Hospital. Travis's fourth cervical
vertebra had "exploded," in the word of one of the doctors, when
his helmet struck the boards. His spinal cord, which carries
nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body, had been
damaged by the impact, so he had no movement or feeling below
his neck. When Lee and Brenda went to bed that night, they had
been told that Travis's chances of recovery were "remote" and
that they should be prepared for the possibility that Travis
would remain a quadriplegic. Each time she rolled over in bed
that night, Brenda wondered if Travis would ever roll over
again. Each time she touched Lee's arm, she wondered if her son
would ever feel such a touch.
The initial bleak prognosis hasn't changed in the intervening
weeks, though everyone involved in the case continues to hope.
In the meantime, Travis's life has been as close as one cares to
imagine to a living hell. After undergoing surgery to stabilize
his neck and remove shards of shattered bone, Travis had a bout
with pneumonia, a common side effect of severe spinal injuries.
The steroids he was given to reduce the swelling in his spinal
cord resulted in stomach ulcers. He had a reaction to an
antibiotic that gave him a fever that spiked up to 105.5¬°. His
right lung partially collapsed. For 17 days two tubes were kept
down his throat: one to feed him, one to help him breathe. When
the tubes were finally removed, Travis was given a
tracheotomy--again, to help his breathing. As a result he has
been unable to talk, a condition likely to continue until the
end of November, when doctors hope to remove the tracheal tube.
The only way Travis has been able to communicate is by blinking
his eyes, nodding and, when he can summon the strength, smiling.
"After the first operation, he wanted to know what was going
on," Tobi says. "He has a spelling board. He blinks his eyes
when you get to the right letter. It's very tedious. We told
him, 'We don't know if you're going to be able to move your arms
and legs again. This is where the fight starts. Do you want to
know more?' He shook his head. 'Are you angry?' He shook his
head. 'Are you sad?' He nodded.
"We've been told that the anger will come, but knowing Trav, I
don't think he'll ever be angry at the way it happened. I think
he'll be angry that it was over so soon."
The BU team soldiers on. The players hang Travis's orange
practice jersey at every workout and carry his number 24 game
jersey to the bench both at home and on the road. His nameplate
went up over his locker a week after the accident, when those of
the other freshmen were installed. Parker visits the hospital
often, telling Travis how things are going, threatening to put
him through a quick Russian circuit if he doesn't cooperate with
the doctors. "But as we both know," Parker says, "he'd do
anything to do 40 Russian circuits now."
The doctors have told the Roy family that Travis will be in
rehabilitation four to six months before he can go home. Tobi's
wedding is on April 27, and that's the goal everyone is shooting
for. From the outset, the courage and dignity the Roys have
displayed in the face of adversity have touched a nerve that
resonates far beyond their circle of friends and the hockey
fraternity. Thousands of people, from President Clinton on down,
have written letters and sent prayers. Two funds for Travis have
been established, one in Maine and another in Massachusetts.
Bottle drives, benefit games and auctions are planned, and a
phone-a-thon has already raised $452,000 in cash and $150,000 in
services, a good start toward the estimated $1.5 million in
medical bills that Travis may incur in his lifetime.
"I thought people who knew Travis would react this way," Brenda
says. "He is a ray of sunshine, a very special kid. But what's
blown us away is how this has touched the hearts of so many
people who didn't know him. Sports are so much a part of our
culture, and every parent knows, but for the grace of God, it
could be my kid. How fragile we are. And the setting, too, was
perfect: the way he was right there on the edge of achieving his
There is no bitterness. Lee sees that Travis is only 20, and he
believes that a medical breakthrough may be just around the
corner for Travis and the other 10,000 spinal cord injury
victims who annually suffer paralysis in the U.S. "The hand's
been dealt," says Lee. "You just have to go with it. I hope the
next hand will be a better one. The quality of Travis's life
will be improved immeasurably if he can just move a finger. This
was a true accident. There's no one to blame. I'd be very
surprised if Travis wallowed in self-pity for any length of
time. I think he'll rise to the occasion, as he's done so many
times in the past."
Milbury has already talked to the Roys about having Travis scout
for the Islanders via satellite dish when he starts feeling
better. Pratt can picture Travis, always a terrific
communicator, as a broadcaster. Those who know him best believe,
even in this darkest hour, that something positive will come of
"Travis's grandmother said he's going to be a terrific
messenger," says Brenda. "If there's a god, he wants a messenger
who can deliver. We may not know what that message is yet, but
Travis may have a job to carry out that he didn't choose. I
tried to tell him that: 'You achieved your first goal. You know
how hard it was. Now you've got another goal ahead.'"