Travis Roy Foundation charity hockey game finale played at MSG

NEW YORK — The Travis Roy Foundation charity hockey game ended at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, hours before the New York Rangers played the Pittsburgh Penguins. His memory of him was feted with tributes, a surprise and a final skate between teams split into red and white, friends and family joining them on the ice postgame.

For the first time, Travis wasn’t present at the game named in his honor because he died on Oct. 29, 2020 at age 45. His presence, though, was immeasurable, the mood bittersweet with his foundation ceasing to exist after June 2 It was also joyous with a fundraising total of $1 million for spinal cord injury survivors and research.

In one way it was closed. In another a bigger picture is being painted.

“A number of these players came up to me and said, we’re not going to let this stop and we’ll always be there,” said Lee Roy, Travis’ father and an on-ice official for the game. “It’s the people that are here but it’s also the hockey community. They just continue to carry the (memory of) Travis Roy. They keep it held high. They’re as proud of the accomplishments as we are.”

Lee and Brenda Roy were Travis’ rock through childhood and the tragedy of seeing the 18-year-old freshman forward paralyzed 11 seconds into his first shift for Boston University 27 years ago. They were honored during a pregame ceremony with a surprise all-expense paid weekend in New York City including tickets to a theater performance of their choosing.

Those who raised or donated a minimum of $3,000 played two 25-minute periods. Every player wore No. 24, Travis’ number at Boston University, teams split in school colors red and white.

And with Team Red’s 7-5 victory, this portion of the Travis Roy Foundation was concluded. Ten supporters will run the 2022 Boston Marathon on April 18, with a section traversing Commonwealth Avenue where Travis once lived. Buildings in Boston will be lit in BU red and white for the 2022 Boston WIFFLE Ball Challenge Tournament at Nickerson Field on June 2 to benefit the Quality of Life Grant Program and Franciscan’s Hospital for Children.

“We felt him,” said Scott Litner, organizer of the event. “His presence was definitely here. It’s always a fun event, but the fact that he couldn’t be here this year was sad. I know he’d be proud of all of us, the fact that we’ve raised a million dollars for this foundation the past five years.

Roy was a freshman for the reigning NCAA national champions, on the roster for opening night at Walter Brown Arena on Oct. 20, 1995. The Travis Roy Foundation was started one year later.

Litner said the fight to raise money will continue by associating with various spinal cord foundations in need of assistance, his way of honoring a friend who helped him cope with the death of his father, Dr. Richard Litner, from complications of a 2005 accident that left him paralyzed.

“We’re not going to let this end,” Litner said. “Our expectation is to be here again next year and that’s that’s our game plan going forward.

“Everyone wants to step up their game and be able to perform to Travis’ level, which none of us can, because Travis is quite frankly, better than all of us.”

The Travis Roy Foundation is ending at his request made before his death. He felt like he wanted to go out on top without it missing because he was no longer a part of it. That’s why fundraising is ongoing, the higher purpose chosen for Travis Roy living forever.

“Thank you for your lacing your skates,” Roy said in a video message shown between periods. “Thank you for taking the time to put a check in the mail, for supporting my family. I can’t thank you enough for being a part of it.”

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