Hershey Bears will retire 17th for Chris Bourke next season: ‘The best part of my career has been playing for Hershey’

Sean Semmer/Patriot News

The Hershey Bears, a division of the American Hockey League of the Washington Capitals, announced Saturday that the team will retire the number 17 jersey during the 2022-23 season to forward Chris Burke, son of great NHL player Ray Burke.

Drafted by the Capitals with the 33rd overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Bourque failed to break into the NHL squad during his professional career (he played 51 games for three NHL clubs), but he spent parts of nine seasons during his career with Chocolate and White helping the club win Three Calder Cup titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

The Bears posted a video of Hershey Bears VP of Hockey Operations (and former Bourque teammate) Bryan Helmer calling the Boston, Massachusetts native with the news.

The ceremony, which will take place on January 14, 2023, will be the first event of its kind to be honored with Hershey’s since the Bears family added a photo of alumni Ralph Keeler to the already uploaded No. 3 banner for Frank Mathers. Only one other player in franchise history, the late Mike Nikoluk (who spent 14 seasons wearing the Bears jacket), was honored only with the retirement of a number of players.

Burke played a total of 604 regular season games for Hershey, ranks fifth in franchise history with 586 points (196 goals, 390 assists), is the only player in team history to have led the AHL in scoring on two occasions, and has appeared on five of six AHL All-Star career matches as a member of the Bears, and en route to the above three Calder Cups, ended as the Bears’ playoff top scorer.

Helmer, who has led the Bears to the last two editions of the Calder Cup, said in a statement:

“Chris Burke is one of the greatest players to ever wear chocolate and white, and it is only fitting that he elevate his number 17 among the best players in our organization’s rich history. Chris is synonymous with the success that the Bears enjoyed during his playing days, and the influence he made in Chocolatetown continues to live on. We We are excited to be able to honor his legacy with his friends, family and fans on January 14th.”

Bourque played 51 NHL games with the Caps, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, scoring two goals and eight points. He retired in April, and was the 20th all-time scorer in the AHL.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of die-hard DC fans and has been watching matches for as long as he can remember. Born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, a die-hard Caps fan, First Joe Benignati shirt owner has since met Joe himself. His former favorite became Capital Nate Schmidt after meeting Schmidt at the Hershey Hotel while in Hershey Pennsylvania to watch the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during the conditioning period. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching SafariLive live on WildEarth TV, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Finnegan in 2014 at Capital Development Camp.)

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