Wings retire Jake Bergey's number

Posted: February 11, 2014

AS JAKE BERGEY walked onto the Wells Fargo Center turf and looked up to the rafters Saturday night, emotions and memories from his 10-year playing career in Philadelphia began to come back.

The son of former Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey earned one accolade not found on his father's résumé Saturday, 6 years after playing his final game for the Wings. The second leading scorer in team history was recognized in a pregame ceremony as the team retired his No. 66 jersey prior to its 8-6 loss to Edmonton.

"To have my number retired alongside these unbelievable lacrosse players is great," Bergey said. "I know I am in great company and it's truly an honor."

"It is always nice to honor members who have been a part of our team's heritage," head coach Blane Harrison said. "We are happy for Jake and the fans to be involved in such a memorable occasion."

Bergey's No. 66 banner was unveiled alongside fellow Wings' greats Tom Marechek (No. 42) and Dallas Eliuk (35). For Bergey, the night was even more bittersweet as he was able to look up to the rafters to see the same number his dad once wore in Philadelphia 34 years ago.

"When you go to college, typically you don't have those high numbers so I ended up wearing No. 6 and that was sort of my go-to number," Bergey said. "When I went off to play for the Wings after college, obviously No. 66 was open and I thought it would be pretty cool to wear No. 66 and have 'Bergey' on your back in Philadelphia."

Growing up in the Philadelphia area, Bergey had two loves - football and lacrosse. Although he chose to pursue a career as a professional lacrosse player, Bergey said his father, Bill, was always supportive.

"I'm sure he wanted me to play football," Bergey said. "I was an All-American football player in high school but lacrosse was just something that I really enjoyed. It was never something that I didn't enjoy so I picked lacrosse over football."

Like his father, Jake had an impressive career in Philadelphia, where he played 10 seasons and sat out one due to an ACL injury in 2003. He ranks second overall in team history in goals and points (256 career goals, 557 points) while also ranking second in team history with 301 assists.

"It was 10 of the best years that you could possibly have in a lacrosse career," Bergey said. "I played in my hometown of Philadelphia and really I was one of the fortunate people to be drafted from the city I was from. I couldn't imagine a more perfect scenario for a career."

The Salisbury State University alum played in 133 regular-season games with the Wings from 1998-2008. He had 13 goals and 17 assists in nine playoff games and helped lead the Wings to the NLL championship in 1998 and 2001.

"The Philadelphia Wings historically had a winning tradition and coming in my rookie season, we were able to keep that going and win a championship and then again in 2001," Bergey said. "Unfortunately, we haven't won it since then, but having those two championships under your belt was really a special moment and hopefully the Wings can turn things around and get back onto the championship run."

In 2008, the Wings left Bergey unprotected in the offseason's Dispersal Draft. The Boston Blazers selected him a year removed from a 50-point season. The Wings attempted to trade for Bergey, but were unsuccessful. That, ultimately, made his decision to retire much easier.

"There were a lot of different things that went into that," Bergey said. "It was getting sort of toward the end of my career and I was contemplating retirement, and then when you have another team pick you up, it just wasn't right for me. I'm a Philly guy through and through and when they said you could go play in Boston, it was easier for me to retire as a Wing."

Saturday's ceremony was not the first time the Wings had honored their former star. Bergey earned a standing ovation in 2009, a year after he played his final game. While that moment was special, Bergey said Saturday night's honor was even more memorable for him and his family.

"Whenever you can be honored by your own team it's special," Bergey said. "I played there for 10 years and I was there the whole time. I got to know the fan base and all of my teammates over the years, and the Wings organization took care of me by honoring me for my retirement. That was special but this weekend took it to a whole new level."

"It was a big part of my life playing with the Wings. Not only all of the time I spent with my teammates, but there were a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into playing and going back onto that field was emotional."

Bergey said he is enjoying his time after professional lacrosse. Rather than dropping the game altogether, he has stayed active as a coach for his son's lacrosse team.

"I have a son and a daughter who my world revolves around," he said. "I took my son out with me on the field when I was last honored in 2009, but he wasn't old enough to remember it. It was really special that I was able to take him out on Saturday to share that memory with him."

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