Patrik pumped up for the World Cup

Friday, 06.18.2010 / 3:18 PM ET / Features
By Eric Marin
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Patrik pumped up for the World Cup
Elias has been following the 2010 World Cup closely.
A star on the ice, Patrik Elias still loves being out on the pitch.

The Devils’ all-time leading scorer grew up a rabid soccer fan in his native Czech Republic, and recently shared his thoughts on this year’s World Cup in South Africa.

What have you thought of the tournament so far?
Elias: A lot of tight games, some surprising results. Obviously, I think the biggest issue is the vuvuzelas. There’s a lot of conversation, controversy around that. I don’t enjoy it as much, watching. I know it’s a part of it, but you lose focus, so I can’t even imagine the guys on the field.

So you wouldn’t want to see vuvuzelas at the Rock?
On the ice, because we’re away from the fans a little bit, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Somebody's going to come with that. Somebody will.

Why do you think soccer isn’t more popular in the U.S.?
It is the most enjoyable, most watched, most exciting game in the world for most of the countries and continents, and I think America’s trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to bring soccer players over from Europe, they promote it the right way, and I think Major League Soccer is getting better. You can even see the [U.S.] National Team – they’re getting results there, they qualified for these big tournaments and it starts with that. I don’t know what it is, because you have so many kids here, and every kid, pretty much, plays soccer. They don’t make that next step. I think that’s going to come. Everything takes time, and such a big continent, I think that soccer’s going to end up being one of the top sports here.

You set up Jason Arnott for the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2000. Would you rather score a Cup-clinching goal or a World Cup winner?
For me – right now – it would be the World Cup. I helped do it in hockey, so for me it would be the World Cup. I know their season is very long, they play for their own clubs and on top of that they have to qualify for the World Cup and now [they’re in] the tournament. I’m sure for those guys it’s as exciting and as memorable for me, that moment in 2000 that I’ll never forget.

How much do you follow soccer besides the World Cup?
You should ask my wife. Every Sunday. We’re good with the schedule because we’re usually off, and it’s all on the couch watching English Premier League, but my team is Barcelona in the Spanish league. I love watching them. They’re the most exciting team – their ball possession, their skills, their speed, it’s unbelievable.

Favorite player?
[Barcelona striker Lionel] Messi. And it’s same thing in the World Cup. I like him more than [Real Madrid forward Cristiano] Ronaldo.

How big a soccer fan were you growing up in the Czech Republic?
I played starting when I was seven years old. For almost 10 years, I played and I practiced like that. It’s a lot of fun. I still like playing throughout the summer. I think it’s great to keep yourself in shape, speed, agility, footwork, and all of that can help you with hockey. I miss that and don’t get enough chance to do that in the States.