Chris Bourque’s retirement from the jersey with the Hershey Bears included shout-outs from Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perrault

Hershey Bears retired Chris Burke 17 on January 14, 2023, prior to its game against the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Bears would go on to win later that night 6-2 after getting goals from top prospects Hendrix Lapierre and Conor McMichael.

The Hershey’s Bears went out to celebrate Burke that night, Give all fans small banners When they entered the Giant Center and held a 30-minute touching pre-game party that included the entire Bourque family.

“The best years of my life were playing in Hershey,” Burky said. “I’ve had many nights in Hershey that will be with me forever. Tonight is one of those nights.”

During the ceremony, Burke received video shout-outs from a group of former Bears and Capitals teammates including Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Giroux, Andrew Gordon, Eric Fehr, and Karl Alzner.

Beagle, who recorded his congratulations from the frozen tundra somewhere in Canada (or Narnia) that had a shed in the background, became the first player in hockey history to win championships in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL. Beagle played parts of four seasons at Hershey from 2007 through 2011.

“Hey Paperback, I just wanted to say congrats on a great career and your jersey being retired tonight,” Beagle said in a video he provided to RMNB of the Bears. “You are one of the best players I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. I will always have a lot of memories, great memories of playing with you, but I think the special thing for me was that time you smiled at me. Something I will never forget. Enjoy tonight, I hope you smile.” Tonight. I love you. Don’t cheat.”

Perreault spent three seasons with the Hershey Bears from 2009 through 2011 and won back-to-back championships with Bourque in 2010 and 2011.

“I wanted to congratulate you, first, on a great career, but to get your retired Hershey jersey,” Perreault said. “What an amazing achievement. You deserve it very well. When I think of you the first thing I think of is those two years we won the Calder Cup together. I found this hat I’m wearing today. Those two years were the most fun I’ve had playing hockey in my entire career and I’ve been a part of Bigger than that.

“Thank you for those two bad boys that I also found in my bins,” Perreault added while holding the Bears championship rings. “You were a huge part of this team and I wouldn’t get it done without you.”

“When I first turned pro and came to Hershey, you were one of the guys who really took me under his wings, showed me the ropes, and for that, I’ll always be grateful. You’re one of the guys I look up to even though you’re a lot shorter than me. I still look up to you. Oh you.” A great teammate and I miss you bro.”

Bourque was originally drafted in the second round, 33rd overall, by the Washington Capitals in the 2004 NHL Draft—the same event that saw the Caps select Alex Ovechkin first overall. The son of one of the greatest defensemen of all time, Ray Burke, Chris had high expectations. And while he hasn’t quite reached the same heights as his father in the NHL, in many ways what he’s accomplished is just as impressive while under that massive spotlight.

“My dad Ray was a huge influence on me and made it so easy to fall in love with hockey,” Chris said during the ceremony, as his father wept. “Seeing him lift the Stanley Cup as a kid is one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Bourque played 13 professional seasons in the AHL, playing 794 games with the Portland Pirates, Hershey Bears, Providence Bruins, Hartford Wolf Pack, and Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bourque retired with the 20th most points in AHL history (746), marking the twelfth most assists (495) and forty goals (251). He retired the most assists in Calder Cup playoff history with 82. He was the AHL Most Valuable Player during the 2015-16 season after scoring 80 points (30g, 50a) in 72 games.

Bourque spent nine seasons with Hershey, winning three Calder Cup championships (2006, 2009, 2010) with the team and being named the postseason MVP in 2010. The 2009-10 Bears team could be the greatest AHL team in league history. The Bears won 60 games and hit a 24-game home winning streak—both AHL records.

“My favorite Burke memory was when we played together on the championship team that won Winnipeg (2009),” said Andrew Gordon, a former RMNB blogger. “We were on the same line and going through this playoff run with me, you and Willie, playing together, playing some big minutes, making big plays, and the excitement you got when we gave a big game or scored a big goal, it was electric. You were always leading the team one way or another. “I’m excited about your passion, playing a role, scoring goals. I always tried to learn from you even though you were a little younger.”

“Congratulations on your special night,” said Keith Aucoin (an occasional RMNB contributor). “No one deserves it more than that. You’ve done so many wonderful things for the organization. I won a few championships and was lucky to be part of two of them. I will always remember you coming to my apartment with food for a pre-game meal every day, zucchini and eggs being my favourite.” You have I guess. Sitting on the bench after a power play goal and telling me I don’t pass you the ball enough. So that was always a fun thing to deal with after a power play goal.”

“It was an honor to play with you, being your roommate and teammate for those years,” said Alexandre Giroud, the fifth AHL player to score 60 goals in a season. “I was lucky enough to be in the power play with you. You obviously made everyone around you better. All those years at Hershey were such a great time.”

While Bourque played in a record-setting six AHL All-Star Games (2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and was a first-team AHL All-Star three different times, he found more joy in the subtler things. Such as playing parts of two seasons (2015-2017) with his younger brother.

“Playing with Ryan has been one of my greatest joys professionally,” said Chris.

“Growing up with Chris where my older brother shaped my identity,” Ryan said He said. “He challenged me, he inspired me, he messed with me a lot. I’m five years younger than Chris but every single day I was trying to keep up with him.

He added, “As Bears fans know, Chris is the most competitive person I’ve ever faced.” “I don’t think I beat him with anything for the first 12 years of my life. Chris loves to win and he did a lot of that in Hershey.”

To celebrate the occasion, Hershey’s bears He presented Burke with a five-pound chocolate bar and a framed T-shirt that included a hand-drawn depiction of him holding the Calder Cup on his head.

Photo: Kyle Mays/Hershey’s Bears

The current Bears honored Bourque by wearing an old Hershey jersey that included his number 17 on the back. The team auctioned them off to charity after the match.

Photo: Katie Frye/Hershey’s Bears

The league has brought in all the trophies Chris has won during his career so prestigious that he can stand with them.

Burke, along with his two children Kingston and Harlow, took part in the ceremonial puck drop party at Center Ice with Dylan McElrath and Matthew Peca. During his speech, Chris said of his two children “There was no better therapy than to look out in the crowd and see you at my games.” He was looking forward to giving back to them during his retirement.

Photo: Katie Frye/Hershey’s Bears

Burke He is now officially the eighth player to have the Hershey Bears retired.

Before leaving Giant Center that night, he shared this final piece of advice for the 2022-23 Hershey Bears team.

“Hershey’s has been the most important place in my career and will always have a special place in my heart,” Burke said. To all the current members of Chocolate and White, wear the shirt with pride.

Banner photo: Kyle Mays/Hershey’s Bears

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