It remains unclear if Patrik Elias will decide to play another season with the New Jersey Devils. What is crystal clear regardless of his or the Devils’ decision on his future is no one in a New Jersey uniform will ever wear No. 26 again. After wearing No. 24 with the AHL Albany River Rats, Elias came up to New Jersey and wore Nos. 22 and 24, before finally settling on No. 26. As a result, if you’ve been following the Devils since 1997, you’ve never associated the number with another player.
If he does retire, Elias and his No. 26 would likely be the first forward to join Martin Brodeur, Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. Elias is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the Devils’ franchise leader in goals (408), assists (617), points (1,025), even strength goals (279), power-play goals (113) and game-winning tallies (80).
With the regular season looming, no decisions or deadlines have been set by Elias or general manager Ray Shero. Elias is still skating on his own and testing his surgically repaired right knee. Though Elias still has the skills and smarts necessary to compete at a high level, the jury remains out as to whether or not he can push through a grueling NHL schedule.
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Looking back through Devils’ franchise history, you’ll see why no player is more worthy of having No. 26 retired than St. Patty.
Krzysztof Oliwa (1996-97)
Wearing his Albany number for one game in 1996-97, Oliwa picked up a fighting major in his lone contest with the Devils that season. Oliwa would switch to No. 29 and play with the team through 2000, helping the team win a second Stanley Cup in 1999-00. Oliwa’s 724 penalty minutes rank tenth in club history.
Jason Smith (1993-97)
A rugged defenseman with the Devils, Smith wore No. 26 in parts of four seasons with New Jersey before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smith totaled 11 points and 167 penalty minutes in 164 games with New Jersey.
Peter Stastny (1990-93)
In a reversal of Oliwa, Stastny started out wearing No. 29, after being traded from the Quebec Nordiques, during the 1989-90 campaign. Sporting No. 26, Stastny notched 59 tallies and six more during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Allan Stewart (1988-89)
In parts of six seasons with the Devils, Stewart wore four different numbers. During the 1988-89 campaign, Stewart registered two helpers and recorded 15 penalty minutes in six contests.
Tommy Albelin (1988-90)
Most Devils fans remember Albelin as No. 6, from when he helped the Devils blue line win Stanley Cup titles in 1994-95 and 2002-03. Yet from 1998-90, Albelin, like Stastny, wore No. 26 after being traded from the Nordiques. In 118 games, Albelin potted 13 goals, dished out 47 helpers, recorded 103 penalty minutes and was a plus-17.
Andy Brickley (1986-88)
In two seasons with New Jersey, Brickley wore No. 26. During the 96-game time frame, Brickley recorded 19 goals, 26 assists, and 45 points.
Rocky Trottier (1984-85)
While Trottier started out with No. 88, he would switch to No. 26 during the 1984-85 campaign. In 33 contest with the new numerals, Trottier registered five goals and three assists.
Mike Kitchen (1982-84)
Moving with the Colorado Rockies, Kitchen stuck with No. 26 and became the first New Jersey player to don the number in the process. In 120 contests with the Devils, Kitchen netted five goals, added 12 assists and totaled 76 penalty minutes.
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In summation, this list chronicles how many players have come and gone, with some making their mark more than others. Elias’ longevity and consistency separate him from the rest. When others left, Elias stayed, and there’s a great possibility one day his number will stay up in the rafters forever, too.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.