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September 14, 2015

Travis Roche

Travis Roche was an excellent student and an outstanding philanthropist off the ice, and every bit as intellectual on the ice. he was poised and silky puckmover with superb instincts. The right handed rearguard was known for his hard shot and silky stride.

Yet Roche was over-looked by NHL scouts as he was never drafted. The Grand Cache, Alberta native moved to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, about an hour away from the Arctic Ocean, as a youth, but spent most of his hockey development years near Edmonton. He had played with the Trail Smoke Eaters in the British Columbia Junior League, forgoing the WHL to keep his college eligibility open. In the BCHL he was named rookie of the year and playoff MVP for his fantastic play, though scouts shied away from his then-wiry size and adventurous defensive game.

Undeterred, Roche committed to the University of North Dakota for 1999. As a freshman he was redshirted in his rookie college season, not allowed to play but only practice. His credits did not properly transfer to UND, which disqualified him from his scholarship that season.

The year of development was challenging for Roche, as he turned it into a huge success in the 2000-01, being named as a NCAA All Star while leading UND to the Frozen Four championship. He impressed everyone with his filled-out size and his improved defensive game, tempo and physical play.

With several offers coming from the National Hockey League Roche opted to leave school after his third year. He signed with the Minnesota Wild and played in the final game of the regular season with the team.  He then reported to the farm team in Houston where he immediately impressed with a strong and quick chemistry with Nick Schultz.

Despite some strong play in the AHL over the next few years, Roche never found a home with the Wild. He only played nine more games though 2004.

In the summer of 2004 Roche signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers but never played for the NHL club. 

Roche's only real NHL season was in 2006-07 when he spent 50 games with Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes. But he was back down in the AHL in 2007-08.

Ultimately Roche was a finesse blue-liner blessed with excellent mobility. But at the NHL level he was too polite and needed to assert himself more physically. 

Roche moved over to Europe after that, playing many seasons in Switzerland and Sweden. He would spend his off-seasons in Minnesota where he established a commercial and residential property investment firm.

Through it all Roche has always kept children's charities close to his heart, no matter where's gone.

“There are a million reasons to be involved. I don’t think hockey is a big thing for most of these kids. I think it means something just to be someone who is willing to spend the time with them, when you don’t have to be there. Seeing the children’s faces light up, it’s such a gratifying feeling.”

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