NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias had always thought of Lou Lamoriello as a father-figure ever since being selected in the second round of the 1994 NHL Draft.
It was a recurring theme among many of the veteran players when asked for their feelings about going up against the former Devils general manager for the first time since he resigned and joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in the same capacity on July 23 when New Jersey visits the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG, TSN4).
Lamoriello, 72, relinquished his position as GM of the Devils on May 4 and hired Ray Shero to replace him. He remained as president but resigned from that position and was named general manager of the Maple Leafs. He served as Devils GM for 28 years.
Elias, 39, is currently the longest serving player in the Devils organization.
"He showed me what it meant to be part of this organization, part of a hockey family and what it takes on and off the ice to be a professional," Elias told NHL.com. "Obviously it was never a rosy road but I think we had a good relationship, throughout my career, especially in the end.
"We had a mutual respect for each other, no question about it, and I'm grateful for all the years that he kept me here."
Elias is in his 17th season with the Devils. Lamoriello re-signed Elias to a three-year, $16.5 million contract on July 4, 2013, one day before he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
"Sometimes when you weren't playing well or struggling, he had your back and that happened certain times in my career," Elias said. "I've been fortunate to be a part of two Stanley Cup wins (2000, 2003), have gone to the Final a couple times. That's something I'll always cherish and he's been a big part of that."
Devils captain Andy Greene said he's forever grateful Lamoriello gave him an opportunity to play in the NHL when no one else did nine years ago. Greene was signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2006.
"I think most of us will think about [Lamoriello] before the game but once it starts it's between the guys on the ice. But there's no doubt Lou had a huge impact on this team, this city and this state," Greene said. "That's something you can't just brush aside.
"He certainly had a big impact on my career; he stuck by me and gave me my first chance and I owe him a lot. I appreciate everything he's ever done for me, personally. He was the only GM I ever had and was the one constant in this organization. When he left, it was a change and shock to the system, but I wish him nothing but the best."
The Devils missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs their first five seasons in New Jersey prior to Lamoriello becoming GM. He built a perennial contender that won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 and made it to the Cup Final five times from 1995-2012.
Devils forward Adam Henrique, who is in his fifth full NHL season, liked the fact Lamoriello was a hands-on general manager.
"He was always around saying 'hello,'" Henrique said. "He would come through the locker room and that was important to have that contact and he always had an open-door policy. He meant a lot to me in my first few years in the League and was 100 percent behind me. He taught me ways to be better as an individual at or away from the rink and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
"It's been different not having him around, not seeing him as much, so it'll be nice to maybe see him Tuesday and say 'hi.'"