The 41-year-old former Czech forward played his final game in 2016, finishing a 20-year career in New Jersey with two Stanley Cup championships and most of the team's scoring records.
"For someone growing up in Eastern Europe, in a communist country, there's no way I could have ever dreamed of this day," said Elias, whose eyes welled with tears during his speech that was interrupted several times by chants of "Paddy! Paddy!"
Always a fan favorite, Elias walked through a section of the stands at the Prudential Center before taking his place on the ice with his wife, two daughters, former and current teammates and the franchise's owners and management.
The podium on the ice was shaped like a puck with the No. 26 on it, and it was by surrounded by other supersized pucks with the same number and two trophies, the Stanley Cup and The Prince of Wales trophy, presented to the Eastern Conference winner.
Elias played on four conference champions, scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.
Elias is the first European player to have his number retired by the Devils, and the first forward. Defensemen Scott Stevens (No. 4), Scott Niedermayer (No. 27) and Ken Daneyko (No. 3) and goaltender Martin Brodeur (No. 30) also had their jerseys retired. All four were in attendance, with Brodeur getting the biggest ovation.
It was appropriate that Elias' No. 26 was raised to the rafters at the Prudential Center against the Islanders, the team he played his most games against, 91, and had his most points against, 86.
Elias is the Devils' leader in points (1025), goals (408), assists (617), points in one season (96), points in a playoff season (23) and game-winning goals (80).