DRACUT — You could have heard a pin drop as Travis Roy began to tell the story of his life.
The hockey standout had reached his dream — the dream he nurtured since he first stepped out onto the ice as a 20-month-old little boy.
“He started moving along on those little skates and he never looked back,” said his father, Lee Roy, during a 10-minute video presentation that kicked off Roy’s keynote speech at the Northeast Massachusetts Association of Student Councils annual conference held at Dracut High School on Oct. 29.
By the time Travis had finished high school, he had become an accomplished hockey star and earned a scholarship to Boston University. At the age of 21, he took the ice for the first time as a member of the BU Terriers. Eleven seconds into the first shift of his very first game, tragedy struck. As the puck ran along the boards following the faceoff, Travis gave chase and went crashing into the boards. He went down on the ice in a heap.
As the video ran footage of the play from every conceivable angle, Travis Roy, now 35, sitting in a motorized wheelchair in the darkened section of the stage, just looked down at the floor. His father’s voice could be heard over the loudspeaker.
“He was down on the ice,” said Lee Roy, who ran down from the stands and onto the ice next to the coaches and trainers who hovered around Travis’ body. “I said, ‘Come on, Travis. Be brave. Let’s get going.’ I knelt down next to him and said, “Hey Trav. What’s up?’ He said, ‘I can’t feel anything. I think we have a problem.’ Then he looked me straight in the eye and he said, ‘But Dad. I made it.'”
At that moment, father and son both knew it was over and in that instant their lives would be changed forever.
As the video ended and the auditorium lights went back up, Travis Roy, the good-looking all-American blond who authored the best-selling autobiography, Eleven Seconds, motored his chair to center stage and began talking. He spoke of goals he had set for himself at a young age. The hours spent at the rink. The hours spent in the gym.
“I wanted to see how good I could be in whatever I chose to do,” said Roy. “I had passion and desire. I had pride in knowing I tried my hardest. I did my best. I didn’t cut corners and I didn’t cheat myself. I studied hard and I practiced hard.”
Close to 400 students from 17 schools sat in rapt silence, every eye focused on the young man in the wheelchair who talked candidly about his life before and after the accident that left him a quadriplegic.
“From the very first time I sat in this wheelchair, I knew it would be where I would spend the rest of my life,” Roy said. “But I’m living proof that a positive attitude will take you further in life than anything else. The values I had before the accident are the same values that I had after the accident.”
Roy was preceded on the stage by Pelham, N.H. native Dan Bishop, who was diagnosed last year with multiple sclerosis. Dracut High School Student Council Adviser Linda Dugan said the theme of this year’s conference is “Color Outside the Lines.”
“We have two young men here today that have faced challenges and adversity and have made the most out of it,” Dugan said. “Two young people who had everything right there in front of them and had it taken away. But they turned it into a positive. They took what life dealt them and moved forward.”
As the dismissal bell rang and most students rushed to their buses, the group of student councilors hung around and chatted with Roy, who posed for pictures with many of them.
“You hear people say all the time that you have to earn respect,” Roy said. “I disagree with that. I believe that when you meet somebody for the first time, you give them your utmost respect.”