Patrik Elias, Still A Jersey Guy

There is much joy in Mudville, New Jersey today.

Patrik Elias, scorer, prankster, passer, Euro-cool and Jersey-slick, re-signed with the Devils. Elias re-upped for 7 more years, for a total of $42 million. Impressive on the surface as it's the largest contract signed so far this year, but more impressive is what it says about Elias as a leader.

Benefitting from the new NHL collective bargaining agreement and an April birthday, Elias is 30 years old and eligible for unrestricted free agency this year. He could have cashed in for up to $8.8 million a season, more than 30% over his negotiated $6 million paycheck. Rumors had three quarters of the league interested in him, and all of us who have closets and shelves full of Elias swag have been on edge since the Devils ended their playoff run. All of the ingredients were there for a fan disaster.

I believe that our sports heroes should impress us with their behavior and not just their skill; they should be people we want to emulate in terms of what they do during off-days. We should want to exhibit all of their attitudes. My love of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Willie Stargell went beyond him being slow and left-handed; he worked in his own restaurant during the off-season; he endured a tough childhood; he was a team leader and created unity when he could have had rampant dissention. He played because he loved baseball, and is one of only a few baseball athletes to stay with a single club -- the club that first signed him -- more than 20 years.

And so it is with Elias. Drafted by the Devils in 1994, he's always been in a Jersey way. Now signed for seven more years, it's likely he'll finish his career (or come close) wearing the tail and horns. Loyalty, hard work, team play -- the attributes I want my own son to learn from his favorite athlete.

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