Chris Bourque Honored with Jersey Retirement Night
Legendary Hershey Bears player has number 17 sweater retired in front of sold-out GIANT Center crowd
The Hershey Bears honored one of the greatest players in their storied history on Saturday, Jan. 14, when the club hosted Chris Bourque Jersey Retirement Night, presented by Highmark Blue Shield, in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,517 at GIANT Center.
Prior to that evening’s game against the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Bears recognized Chris Bourque, who donned the Chocolate and White over the course of nine seasons, with the raising of his No. 17 jersey to the rafters of GIANT Center. The left wing joined Mike Nykoluk (March 29, 1972), Frank Mathers (March 9, 1991), Arnie Kullman and Tim Tookey (Dec. 6, 1997), Willie Marshall and Mitch Lamoureux (Oct. 2, 1999), and Ralph Keller (Dec. 1, 2002), as only the eighth player in team history to have their sweater retired.
During his time in the Sweetest Place on Earth, Bourque left an indelible mark on the Bears franchise. The Boston native ranks fifth all-time in team history in scoring, collecting 586 points (196g, 390a) in 604 regular season games. His play in the regular season led to Bourque winning the American Hockey League’s scoring title twice, in 2012 and 2016, making him the only player in team history to do so. In both years, he was named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team, and also earned five All-Star Classic selections as a member of the Bears. In 2016, he also claimed league MVP honors.
The postseason is when Bourque shone brightest. Bourque helped Hershey to three Calder Cup titles (2006, 2009, 2010), earning the distinction of being the only person in franchise history to claim three championships with the Bears as a player. He is the franchise's all-time leader in playoff scoring (86 points) and playoff games played (106), and his 82 career playoff assists are the most by any player in the history of the AHL. Bourque won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the AHL’s Playoff MVP in 2010, collecting 27 points (7g, 20a) in 21 postseason games as Hershey ended a historic 60-win season with the organization’s 11th Calder Cup title.
During the ceremony, Bourque was joined by members of his family, including his wife Kim, son Kingston, daughter Harlow, father Ray, mother Christiane, sister Melissa, and brother (and former Bears teammate) Ryan. Also present on the dais were Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer and AHL Hall of Famer Mitch Lamoureux. The Voice of the Bears, Zack Fisch, served as emcee for the evening.
As Bourque and those in attendance watched, a video was played highlighting many of the achievements and championship moments that the forward was a part of during his time with the Bears. Many more video tributes from former teammates, coaches, and friends were also played.
Bourque and his family received several gifts, including a commemorative hand-painted 17 jersey produced by Mark Kannell Fine Art, depicting Bourque raising the Calder Cup in 2010, and a customized five-pound Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
Ryan Bourque then stepped to the podium to deliver some remarks about his older brother, beginning by poking fun at their sibling rivalry.
As Ryan continued, the focus shifted to a time that was especially meaningful, when they first played together as teammates on the Bears during the 2015-16 season, a campaign that culminated with a run to the Calder Cup Finals.
“Getting to go to the rink with my brother every day in the ultimate hockey market here in Hershey, I’ll always cherish,” Ryan explained. “Chris is my best friend, and as a person I can’t say enough about him. He’s genuine, he’s authentic - he taught me how to be a pro. How to be a great husband, and a great father, and how to be a man that you can count on.”
After the brothers embraced, Chris Bourque then made his way to the microphone to address Bear Nation.
Bourque also thanked his family for their love, sacrifice, and support.
Bourque observed the shift he now faces as a parent to Kingston and Harlow, the biggest joys in his life. “Now the roles are reversed, and I’ll be spending more time at their games and events, being their biggest fan.”
Bourque then addressed the Bears past and present.
“To all of the legendary players such as Mitch Lamoureux: thank you for paving the way for players like myself. To all of the current members of the Bears: wear the Chocolate and White with pride,” Bourque said, before concluding, “Hershey was the most important place in my career, and it will always have a special place in my heart.”
It was then that the Bourque family gathered to witness the unfurling of the No. 17 banner, and allowing Chris Bourque to take his rightful place in Hershey Bears history.