HEBRON – Former Boston University hockey player Travis Roy realized his dream of playing college hockey before being paralyzed from the neck down when he hit the boards 11 seconds into that first game.

Sitting in a wheelchair in Hebron Academy’s new $11 million athletic center, the Yarmouth native told about 500 students, alumni and family members at Saturday’s dedication of the Hebron Academy Athletic Center that it’s what a person does in the face of challenges that defines who they are.

‘Best day of my life’

“October 20, 1995. It was the best day of my life,” Roy said. It was the day of his first collegiate game, BU against the University of North Dakota. It was also the day he lost his balance and fell into the side of the arena, cracking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.

“I fought back my tears,” Roy said. “This is it. This is my moment … I felt the tap on the back of my shoulder I had been waiting for all my life. Eleven seconds had passed in my very first game, my very first season, and it lasted 11 seconds, but I took great pride that I had reached my goal. I had accomplished my dream.”

Roy was the guest speaker at the dedication of the 54,000-square-foot athletic center which is set to open next month. It will provide the school with three indoor basketball courts, a track, climbing wall, fitness center and squash court.

Roy, 33, is the author of the book “Eleven Seconds” and founder of the Travis Roy Foundation to aid spinal cord injury research. He was born in Augusta where his father, Lee, ran an ice rink. Travis was initiated into the world of ice hockey at the age of 20 months when his father put a pair of figure skates on the boy’s feet. That figured into the goals and dreams he was to set in high school, Roy said.

Dreams

His first dream was to play college ice hockey. From there he hoped to join a professional league and finally an Olympic team. But when Roy’s father reminded him that he had to have the grades to get into college, “that kind of burst my bubble,” he said as his audience laughed.

Although he had a mild form of dyslexia, Roy said he set a goal of keeping a B average to get into college.

“I had no idea how far I would go on my goals, but from that night on my course was chartered,” he said. From there it was a matter of remembering what his father had always told him, “Remember, whatever it takes.”

In speaking directly to the Hebron Academy students, Roy said people have to see how good they can be and have to be proud that they tried their best.

Despite his ice hockey accident, Roy believes he is a lucky man.

“I feel very fortunate. I can still laugh. I can still cry. I can still set goals and try to reach them. My value system remains unchanged,” he said. Those values include the respect and love that he grew up with and continues to cherish.

“Remember, it’s what you do in the face of challenges that defines who we are,” he concluded to a standing ovation.


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