Hershey Bears retired by Chris Bourque number 17 on January 14, 2023, before their game against the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Bears would win later that night 6-2 after conceding goals from top prospects Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael.

The Hershey Bears went out of their way to celebrate Bourque that night, giving all the fans mini banners as they entered the Giant Center and held a moving 30-minute pregame ceremony that was attended by the entire Bourque family.

“The best years of my life were playing at Hershey,” Bourque said. “I have spent so many nights in Hershey that they will stay with me forever. Tonight is one of those nights.”

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

Recording his congratulations from a frozen tundra somewhere in Canada (or Narnia) with a shed in the background, Beagle 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 to 2011.

“Hey Bourqie, I just wanted to congratulate you on a great run and retiring your jersey tonight,” Beagle said in a video provided to RMNB by the Bears. “You are one of the best players I have had the pleasure of playing with. I will always have many memories, great memories of playing with you, but I think the one that stands out the most to me is that time you smiled at me. Something I will never forget. Enjoy tonight, I hope you’re smiling tonight. Love you. There is no digg.

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

“I wanted to congratulate you, first, on an incredible race, but retiring your jersey at Hershey,” Perreault said. “What an incredible achievement. You are so well deserved for that. 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 that I am wearing today. Those two years were the most fun I had playing hockey in my entire career and you were a huge part of that.

“Thank you for these two bad boys that I also found in my boxes,” Perreault added as he held up the Bears championship rings. “You were a huge part of that team and I wouldn’t have it without you.”

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

Bourque was originally selected in the second round, 33rd overall, by the Washington Capitals in the 2004 NHL Draft, the same event in which the Caps took Alex Ovechkin first overall. The son of one of the greatest defensemen of all time, Ray Bourque, Chris had high expectations. And while he didn’t reach the same heights as his father in the NHL, in many ways, what he accomplished is just as impressive under that enormous spotlight.

“My dad Ray had a huge influence on me and made it very easy for me to fall in love with the game of hockey,” Chris said during the ceremony, shocking his father to tears. “Watching him lift the Stanley Cup as a child 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), recording the 12th most assists (495) and the 40th most goals (251). He retired with the most assists in Calder Cup playoff history with 82. He was the AHL MVP during the 2015-16 season after scoring 80 points (30g, 50a) in 72 games.

Bourque spent nine seasons with Hershey, won three Calder Cup championships (2006, 2009, 2010) with the team, and was named postseason MVP in 2010. The Bears’ 2009-10 team might just be the best team in the AHL in league history. The Bears won 60 games and had a 24-game home winning streak, both AHL records.

“My favorite memory of Bourque was when we played together on the championship team that won Winnipeg (2009),” said Andrew Gordon, former RMNB blogger. “We were on the same page and we went through that playoff run with me, you and Willie playing together, playing some big minutes, making big plays, and the excitement you had when we made a big play or scored a big goal, that was electric. You were always leading the team in one way or another with your passion, making plays or scoring goals. I was always trying to learn from you even though you were a bit younger.”

“Congratulations on your special night,” said Keith Aucoin (occasional RMNB contributor). “No one deserves it more. You did a lot of good things for the organization. I’ve won a few championships and was lucky enough to be a part of two of them. I’ll always remember you coming over to my apartment with food for a pregame potluck every day, zucchini and eggs was your favorite I think. Sitting on the bench after a power play goal and telling myself I didn’t pass the puck enough. So it was always fun to deal with that after a power play goal.”

“It was an honor to play with you, to be your roommate and teammate during those years,” said Alexandre Giroux, the fifth AHL player to score 60 goals in a season. “I was lucky to be in the power game with you. Obviously, you made everyone around you better. All those years at Hershey was a great time.”

While Bourque played in six AHL All-Star Games (2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and was part of the AHL All-Star First Team three different times, he found more joy in the finer things. , such as playing parts of two seasons (2015-2017) with his younger brother.

“Playing with Ryan was one of the greatest joys I had professionally,” Chris said.

“Growing up with Chris as my older brother shaped my identity,” Ryan saying. “She challenged me, she inspired me, she messed with me a lot. I’m five years younger than Chris, but every day I tried to keep up with him.

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

To mark the occasion, the Hershey Bears presented Bourque with a five-pound bar of chocolate and a framed T-shirt that included a hand-painted illustration of him holding the Calder Cup Trophy above his head.

Photo: Kyle Mace/Hershey Bears

The current Bears team honored Bourque by wearing their throwback Hershey jersey that included his number 17 on the back. The team auctioned them off for charity after the game.

Photo: Katie Fri/Hershey Bears

The league brought all the trophies that Chris won during his prestigious career so he could pose with them.

Bourque, along with his two sons Kingston and Harlow, participated in the puck throw ceremony at center ice with Dylan McIlrath and Matthew Peca. During his speech, Chris said of his two sons that “there was no better gift than looking out at the crowd and seeing them at my games.” He hoped to return the favor during his retirement.

Photo: Katie Fri/Hershey Bears

borque is now officially the eighth player to have his number retired by the Hershey Bears.

Before leaving the Giant Center that night, he shared this last bit of advice with the 2022-23 Hershey Bears team.

“Hershey was the greatest venue of my career and it will always have a special place in my heart,” Bourque said. “To all the current members of Chocolate and Blanco, wearing the shirt with pride.”

Feature photo: Kyle Mace/Hershey Bears

By sbavh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *