'The healing starts right now': Man from Alaska travels to see Humboldt Broncos memorial before it is removed

A ring of flowers laid in tribute to the Humboldt Broncos will be removed Friday as the ice surface at Elgar Petersen Arena is removed.

City plans to remove ice from arena, banners and posters have been put on display

Memorial on the ice surface at the Elgar Petersen Arena. (Don Somers/CBC)

A ring of flowers laid in tribute to the Humboldt Broncos will be put away Friday as the ice surface at Elgar Petersen Arena is removed.

On April 6, the Broncos' team bus was involved in a crash with a semi-trailer at the intersection of Highways 335 and 35, between Tisdale and Nipawin, killing 16 people and injuring another 13. Since then centre ice at their home arena has become the epicentre of grief.

What started as a few flowers forming a ring around the Broncos logo at centre ice three weeks ago has now evolved into a memorial with thousands of condolences, signatures and inspirational messages from across the country and around the world.

Inside the Humboldt arena on the last day the memorial is open. (Don Somers/CBC)

Craig Currier travelled from all the way from Alaska to see the memorial in person. He said as a hockey dad and the hockey ambassador for the state, he had to come and see it for himself.

I think the healing starts right now.- Craig Currier

"I've been having a tough time. So has my entire family," he said. "Coming down here is a great pilgrimage for me."

Currier brought an Alaskan flag that flew over the state capitol building to show Humboldt their support.

Earlier this month, Alaska Governor Bill Walker made a special proclamation for the state commemorating the crash. Currier helped with a fundraiser and raised over $5,000 for the team.

And while that was the first step, he said, coming here, seeing the love and support was a needed for him to heal.

"I think the healing starts right now," he said. "It does for me, anyhow."

No specific events are being planned at the arena to mark the removal of the ice, but people are welcome to visit during regular hours over the next several days.

Wayne and Linda Rendell felt they needed to come to the memorial in person to pay their respects one last time.

The couple is actually from Stony Plain, the hometown of Parker Tobin who died in the crash. 

"This was just massive," said Linda. "It affects everybody, whether you've lost a child or not."

Mourners will still be allowed to pay their respects on the ice until 9 p.m. CST Thursday. The ice surface is being removed for summer.

Condolences from entire communities from around the world have been placed at the memorial. (Don Somers/CBC)

'Now is the time'

Joe Day, Humboldt's city manager, said the rink has become a gathering place for the town since the crash.

But now, with the three-week anniversary of the tragedy approaching, it's time for the ice to melt. It's also time for the regularly scheduled summer events at the arena to go ahead, and time for the arena and the town to gets back to some sense of normalcy.

"We had to make the decision whether now was the time to take the ice out and give the community as much forewarning as possible," said Day. "Ultimately we decided now is the time."

The signs of heartache are everywhere. On billboards, on storefront windows. In the faces of people who came to pay their respects.

The town will never forget.

With files from David Shield