It went unnoticed by many, and surprised some who did catch the news, but Patrik Elias has announced he is retiring after a career of nearly two decades and two Stanley Cup victories.
The 40 year old Elias, who did not play this season after coming off of knee surgery last summer, retires as arguably the greatest New Jersey Devils player of all time.
Elias played all of his 18 NHL seasons with the Devils, becoming the team’s franchise leader in goals (408), assists (617) and points (1,025). He ranks third in games played with 1,240, behind Ken Daneyko (1,283) and Martin Brodeur (1,259). He also is the Devils’ single-season leader in points, scoring 96 in 2000-01, when he was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team at left wing. His 16 career overtime goals rank second in NHL history.
Elias is also the club's all-time playoff leader with 45 goals, 80 assists and 125 points, 21 power-play goals and six game-winning goals. Elias helped the Devils win Stanley Cups in 2000 (famously setting up Jason Arnott's Stanley Cup winning overtime goal) and 2003. He also appeared in Cup Finals in 2001 and 2012, and four Eastern Conference titles.
"He had talent and he was able to make the big play at the right time," said Lou Lamoriello, the Devils long time architect. "He was a winner. He knew how to play the game. He played like a prototype Devil. The logo was more important than the name."
Yet in so many ways he was one of the most underrated stars in hockey history. Elias was gifted with hockey sense, although it was not always obvious in the Devils' stifling defense-first system. He played with a subtle brilliance in any and all situations - even strength, power play, short-handed. And he was almost always trusted by the coach in the final minute of any tight game - whether the Devils were looking to protect a lead or trying to score one more goal.
The Devils will retired Elias' number 26 in a special ceremony next season, joining Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko as honoured cornerstones of the Devils' glory years in the rafters.
Internationally Elias represented the Czech Republic nine times in international play, including four Winter Olympics, four World Championships and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. In Olympic play, Elias captained the 2010 squad and was a member of the 2006 bronze medal-winning team.