Number 1,000 on your Stat Sheets, Number 26 In Your Programs, Number 1 In Your Hearts
Tonight's game between the 26th place New Jersey Devils and the 28th place Buffalo Sabres isn't worth more than the sentence I already spent on it. The Devils, for the first time in what feels like ages, have won two in row. Tonight, however, isn't about the team, although consummate Devil Patrik Elias would argue otherwise. Tonight, Elias became the first New Jersey Devil to rack up 1,000 points, after notching his 600th and 601st assist, all while representing Jersey's team.
Underrated. Understated. Under appreciated. All accurately describe one of the most consistent and creative Devils of all time. It's easy to forget how long Elias has been a part of the team, and how much he has meant to this franchise. Despite what has been a disappointing season, both personally and collectively, thus far, Elias has always been one of New Jersey's most prolific scorers and playmakers. A player that has sacrificed his own personal stats, although they are nothing to scoff at, to contribute to the greater good. It's no coincidence that the Devils two most productive lines of all time ('The A Line' and "The EGG Line') both featured number 26 as a focal point.
Elias had his chances to leave. He had his opportunities to dash to supposedly greener pastures. Most Devils fans will vividly remember a time when the New York Rangers had a big money contract on the table with his name on it. That's what makes Elias different. His loyalty. His emphasis on winning, no matter what role that required him to play. Center, winger, power play, penalty kill; Elias has done it all, and done it all extremely well. Whether you poll his teammates, both past and present, or you poll the fans, both would tell you he has made every player he has played with more productive.
Any true Devils fan would find it nearly impossible not to feel emotional at the announcement of Elias 1,000th point. After all, he's been here for so many of the good times. So many of the milestones. So many of the wins and championships. And it's not only his presence, but the impact he had during those moments. A clutch game winning goal in game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. A goal which all but clinched a Stanley Cup Finals appearance after falling 3 games to 1 to the Philadelphia Flyers. The most famous pass in Devils history. A no-look pass which found Jason Arnott cutting down the slot in double overtime and won the Devils their second Stanley Cup. A list of highlight reel plays so extensive that even the longest tenured of Devils fans can't recall them all.
Perhaps it's not a goal, or a pass, or a milestone that best encapsulates Patrik Elias' career to this point. Perhaps it's the picture below. A picture taken immediately after the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000. A picture which showcases Elias wearing longtime linemate and teammate, Petr Sykora's jersey. Sykora had been knocked out of the game by a violent open ice hit. Just moments after winning his first Stanley Cup championship on a career defining play, and it still wasn't about him. It never is, and unlike most professional athletes, Elias prefers it that way. Really, that's the beauty of it all. While his potentially Hall Of Fame career has gone by largely unnoticed, it's the fans that he has performed in front of for so many years that truly appreciate his value. A value that cannot simply be characterized by something as tangible as statistics, no matter how impressive they may be.
While this year has been forgettable, Elias and his career contributions have not. He's as selfless as they come. It will be an honor to watch Patty finish out his career where he belongs and have the opportunity to bask in his individual accomplishments when they raise his number 26 to the rafters of The Prudential Center.
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