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 drafted.
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 quickly."
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 hockey player."
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 jock-speak. 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."