I know Patrik Elias retired some time ago. And I also know that most Patty articles/fanposts came out soon after that. (And I know I'm not supposed to start a sentence with "and", yet I do). However, as Devils icon Patrik Elias is having his #26 jersey retired into the rafters of the Prudential Center Saturday evening, I felt obligated as a proud Elias fanboy to give one last personal swan song as it were. I have been a member of All About the Jersey for several years, and many fellow All About the Jerseyans know me as a big Patrik Elias fan. Yet the question is.... Why? What made me a Patty fan? And what made him my favorite NJ Devil above all others? Well, that's what this is.... a simple story about me, my favorite Devil, and why I have chosen to forever honor him.
So let me start off by saying that I am a hockey fan, like millions of others. I am also a New Jersey Devils fan. And I am also a Patrik Elias fan. I would never proclaim to be the world's biggest Elias fan however, as I'm sure there is always someone even more obsessed than I. Yet I am definitely a HUGE Elias fan, that much is certain. I, like many, saw my first hockey game at a young age, and have been hockey-crazed ever since. However, my first hockey experience didn't revolve around meeting Patrik Elias or getting his autograph, or even catching one of his pucks during a game. No. I was a fan before Patty was even a New Jersey Devil, having seen my very first game on December 29th, 1988. A 2-6 Loss to the Bruins nonetheless. So how did Patrik Elias become my favorite Devil then? Wouldn't I have had other favorite Devils? Sure. Yet when I first became a Devils fan, I didn't know much about the sport, let alone the players and teams. After that first game, all I knew was that I loved the sport... and my favorite team was New Jersey. Everything else evolved and revolved around that. Eventually, as I learned more about hockey, I had favorite players along the way. During that first season there was Brendan Shanahan, Kirk Muller, and Tom Kurvers. Heck, the first hockey puck I ever had autographed was from d-man Randy Velischek, so he too was a favorite player. And over the following seasons, as I became a bigger fan, there was Daneyko, Fetisov, Claude Lemieux, Sean Burke, and later Valeri Zelepukin, Stevens, Broduer, Niedermayer, and the "Sarge", Sergei Brylin. All of them were my faves in those first few years as I learned the sport and became attached to the players and how they performed. Yet even as the Devils won their first Stanley Cup in 1995, I still hadn't closed-in on one single player that was my absolute favorite.
Things began changing for both myself and the team when a young kid from Trebic, Czechoslovakia showed up after being drafted by the Devils in 1994. He only played one game in the 95-96 season, scoring no points. However, in the three following seasons he put up good numbers and drew the coaching staff's attention. It was in the 97-98 season that the fun truly began however. That's when the famed "A Line" of Elias, Arnott, and Sykora first got together and formed a dangerous scoring line. But what truly immortalized Patrik Elias in both mine and other Devils fan's minds, and made him my absolute favorite Devil of All-Time and forever, was pure and simply.... "The Pass". You know the one. It was June 10th 2000, Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6, double overtime, Devils versus Stars. Patrik goes into the right corner to retrieve the puck, Arnott heads for the net, Patty makes a near-blind backhand saucer pass that perfectly crosses the low slot, and having just arrived to the left of Eddie the Eagle was Arnott to lift the puck into the net. Devils win. I was on the couch with my best friend that night, while my wife was outside having a smoke (both Devils fans... Don't smoke kids!). I remember those late/early hours like it was yesterday. After that goal, my friend and I screamed so loud, and jumped so high that we not only woke my parents, but my wife later said she almost fell off the porch because she was so startled. Awesome.
When "The Pass" happened, and the puck went in the net, my life changed... both as a Devils fan, and as a Patrik Elias fan. It meant there would no longer be, "Half a season, half a Cup" chants (for the most part). It meant we were two-time Stanley Cup Winners. It meant the Devils' '94-'95 Cup Win was no fluke. It meant the Devils were legit. I was so excited that NJ won a second cup in that moment that I hardly realized how it happened at first. It took a few replays to fully comprehend how incredible that pass and goal were. Only after settling down did I understand what Patty had done, not only had he and the A Line helped win the Cup (although Sykora was in the hospital with a concussion at that moment), but everything up until that point had Patty's signature on it... his 35-goal 72pt, point-per-game season... How he helped deliver the Devils from elimination at the hands of the Flyers.... his 7-goal, 13-assist, 20-point playoffs... and, of course, "The Pass". It was magical... and after 11 seasons of waiting, I had found, the "One". I had found my favorite player, and there may not be another like him for some time. Hall is amazing.... Nico is so talented for a 19yr old... but there is only one Patrik Elias. He is my favorite New Jersey Devil of All-Time.... and you can't have him, he's mine!