'The perfect tribute': Broncos' family, friends share stories of their memorial tattoos

People warned McKailyn Ives’ first tattoo might make her sad, or cause her regrets, but the memorial tattoo only brings back sweet and happy memories of her love, Humboldt Broncos’ player Logan Boulet. She's one of several who have gotten tattoos to remember the Broncos.

Tragedy inspires artwork to capture and hold memories of Broncos

McKailyn Ives, 21, got her first tattoo to remember her boyfriend Logan Boulet, one of 16 people killed in the April 6 Humboldt Broncos' team bus crash. (Submitted photo)

People warned McKailyn Ives' first tattoo might make her sad, or cause her regrets, but the memorial tattoo only brings back sweet and happy memories of her love, Humboldt Broncos' player Logan Boulet.

"I'd never got a tattoo before. And I don't think I started crying till after when I saw it," said the 21-year-old. "And it was just so beautiful and I knew it was exactly what I wanted and it was just the perfect tribute to him."

Boulet was among the 16 that died in the Broncos' April 6 team bus crash, with several others injured, in a national tragedy that triggered a wave of memorial tributes to honour those impacted.

For Ives, she knew quite soon after the collision she wanted her first tattoo to be a memorial to "the best guy I know," Logan Boulet.

"He was actually my very first boyfriend, and I was his first girlfriend," she said, recalling the pair started dating at 15, but had known each other and been friends even before that.

After her boyfriend Logan Boulet died in the Humboldt Broncos' team bus crash, Ives said she knew she wanted her first tattoo to be a tribute to someone she called 'the best guy I know.'

Many of their mutual friends got a cross with his initials, and his jersey number 27. But for Ives, a picture she'd snapped of his hand holding hers struck her as the right personal choice.

"He's very quiet and reserved with his feelings. But something that he's always done has held my hand," she said.

"It was really great that we were each other's first hand hold, and I guess I was his last. That was the last thing I ever got to do with him, was hold his hand."

McKailyn Ives' tattoo is of her and boyfriend Logan Boulet holding hands, with the words, "I miss you more than you know," written underneath. (Submitted photo)

Since she got the tattoo in May, she has found a lot of joy in it.

"I look it at all the time, and it just makes me happy and it just makes me think of all the memories we had together, holding hands," she said.

"I know that wherever he is now, he's missing me as much as I miss him."

Signatures carry special story 

Rene Cannon had gotten a tattoo at the age of 32 to honour her daughters, but after the Broncos' crash, she knew she needed a tattoo for her two billet sons, Logan Hunter and Adam Herold, both of whom died in the crash.

She eventually decided on signing the boys' signatures into her wrist.

"That, to me, just spoke to me. It's very simplistic compared to a lot of the really detailed, very beautiful work that's been done. But I loved the idea of it sort of looking like the boys just Sharpied on my arm."

Signatures of her billet sons Adam Herold and Logan Hunter, with their numbers and two hearts, grace Rene Cannon's wrist. (Submitted photo)

The signatures themselves have stories dear to Cannon's heart.

Hunter's signature came from the first time he was named the Player of the Game. He was given a Player of the Game stick, that he could choose to hand to any kid in the crowd. While he was asked to skate in a certain direction to a certain part of the crowd, Hunter paused but then said, "I can't, I need to give the first one to my billet sister Tessa."

"That moment of him, just taking time to consider her amidst of all that, speaks to who he was, and I liked that a lot," said Cannon.

When he was named the Player of the Game for the first time, Humboldt Broncos' player Logan Hunter took the time to give the autographed stick to his billet sister Tessa Cannon. (Submitted photo)

Herold's signature came in the exhilaration after a Broncos victory. A little boy had asked for Adam Herold's signature, and Herold was amazed to be asked.

"I don't know if he knew who I was, but it was so cool," he told his billet mom later.

After the collision, Cannon reached out to the person who had the stick, to get a copy of the signature to add to her arm.

"Both of those signatures were special to me, and that's why it just had to be that. I knew it had to be that."

Now, when she looks at her wrist, she indeed feels like it's just as though Hunter and Herold signed their names on it with a Sharpie marker, one with an indelible mark.

"It will always be there as a reminder of these two kids that don't get to be with us any more."

'Three things I'll carry'

Many of Scott Thomas's friends had tattoos, but he'd never felt the need to get one before the April 6 collision.

"I said I never had anything significant in my life that I'd want to put on my body to last forever."

But now, several of the Broncos' families have gotten tattoos to remember their loved ones and he's one of them.

The life-changing loss of his son, Evan Thomas, inspired him to get three tattoos, a portrait of his son taken at grad, his son's hand print, and a third with his daughter and son's hands together, taken from a picture that was captured on the day of the funeral viewing.

Scott Thomas got three tattoos of his son, Humboldt Broncos' player Evan Thomas, including a portrait taken from his son's graduation. (CBC News)

"For some reason, his hands mean a lot to me. They're big and they're strong, and they're just like mine," Thomas said. 

Whenever he shakes a person's hand now, he sees his tattoo, and it's as though Evan is right by his side, meeting them as well.

"I'll carry his picture with me, now every time I look down at my left hand, it's there," Thomas said, adding that no matter what happens, his tattoos of his son will remain "three things I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."