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Roy honored by BU: He becomes first Terrier to have number retired

Travis' father, Lee, and his sister, Toby Van Horden, watch with Travis as his No. 24 is retired.
Travis' father, Lee, and his sister, Toby Van Horden, watch with Travis as his No. 24 is retired.ELLEMENT, Justine GLOBE STAFF

This story was originally published on Oct. 31, 1999

Travis Roy died on Oct. 29, 2020, due to complications of paralysis at age 45. Read more here.

He had worn his uniform jersey a scant 11 seconds when, on his first collegiate shift, he crashed into the corner boards. He’s been paralyzed since.

Last night at Walter Brown Arena, where four years and 10 days ago his life changed forever, Boston University emotionally saluted the courage of Travis Roy by retiring jersey No. 24 before opening its Hockey East season with a 3-2 win over Providence College.

The Terriers have had many outstanding hockey players over the years, including 1998 Hobey Baker Award winner Chris Drury, and 35 All-Americans, but Roy’s number was the first to be retired and raised to the rafters.

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Only five players have worn No. 24 since 1917, when BU played its first game against Boston College. Before Roy, there was Peter Marshall (1982-86), Mike Sullivan (1986-90), Keith Tkachuk (1990-91), and Jacques Joubert (1992-95).

It will never be worn again.

While fans chanted, “Travis, Travis, Travis,” and players from both teams tapped their sticks on the blue line, Roy, his mother Brenda, father Lee, and sister Tobi hoisted the banner that carries his name and number.

BU coach Jack Parker then presented Lee Roy a framed replica of his son’s jersey.

“It was awesome,” said Travis, after leaving the ice and retreating to the bowels of Brown Arena. "There have been a lot of sad times during my hockey career, but this is a happy moment. It’s time to turn the page and be proud of everything that has gone on here. I love this place, I love BU hockey, I love Coach Parker. I couldn’t be surrounded by a better bunch of people.

“It’s nice to have my family here. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful evening. I think it’s time we put a real positive spin on this. There’s been a lot of sadness, but there’s been a lot of great things, too.”

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Parker, who has forged a strong relationship with Roy, was teary-eyed as he hugged Roy and members of his family.

“It is apropos that this is the first number we are retiring,” said Parker. "Travis has epitomized the perseverance, determination, and true grit that we expect of all Boston University hockey players.

“He has all the attributes that have embodied all those who have worn No. 24 and all those who have worn the BU hockey uniform over the years.”

Roy’s father was emotionally drained when he spoke after the ceremony.

“Obviously, there are mixed emotions,” said Lee Roy. "There is a great deal of pride, but at the same time there is a tremendous disappointment that Travis didn’t have the opportunity that he worked so hard for.

“Eleven seconds is better than nothing, but we would have loved to have seen a lot more. He certainly would have. But for Jack Parker and the Boston University community to make a decision to retire his shirt, I think says something about Travis and his character. We’re very proud of what he’s done and how he’s done it.”

Boston University did its part to keep the festivities on a high note, snapping a three-game losing streak behind the goaltending of Rick DiPietro (25 saves) and goals by John Cronin, Carl Corazzini, and Pat Aufiero.

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Cronin and Corazzini staked the Terriers (3-3) to a 2-0 first-period lead before Mike Farrell potted a second-period shorthanded goal to cut the Providence (2-2) deficit in half. But Aufiero countered midway through the third period to again give BU a two-goal cushion. Doug Sheppard scored the Friars' second goal on a power play with 8.2 seconds left to play.