Admittedly, the cup isn't in the pristine condition it once was.
The golden finish has lost much of its luster; a chunk of the base, once ripped away, has been replaced; and it's riddled with dents and dimples that make the previously smooth and symmetrical chalice look crinkled. Even the lip around the upper edge bends sharply and droops; like a wet paper cup that's been chewed on.
No, the Chuck Robertson Cup, awarded to the champion of the North American Hockey League (a Tier II junior hockey league), may not be as aesthetically pleasing as other, more well-known championship awards, but looks aren't everything.
Goalie Joe Ballmer has been a key to the success of the Jamestown Ironmen during the North American Hockey League regular season and postseason.
P-J photo by Scott Reagle
What really matters is what the junior hockey trophy, which is the oldest of its kind in the United States, represents, and what winning it can mean for the players who are able to hoist it above their heads in celebration at the close of the last period of the last game of the season.
"It's a life changer," Jamestown Ironmen coach Dan Daikawa said Tuesday. "It's not like winning a trophy in mini-mite hockey; it's a big deal. There will be a lot of college coaches at the tournament, and teams want kids that win because it's not easy to win."
And winning it has been on the collective mind of the 23 players on the Jamestown Ironmen roster since day one.
"We have a photo of it in the middle of the locker room," Daikawa said with a smile, "so every day guys come by and look at it."
The trophy, named for Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey in Michigan who guided the Paddock Pools Saints to seven consecutive NAHL titles from 1976-1983, is awarded to the squad that comes out on top during a six-day round-robin tournament that is held at the end of the NAHL season.
This year's edition, the 38th in NAHL history, will be held in Frisco, Texas, from May 10-13, and pits the NAHL's four division winners (North, South, East and West) against one another, with the top two point-earners competing on the final day for the national championship and, of course, the Chuck Robertson Cup.
Jamestown, which made easy work of Kalamazoo in the North Division semifinal playoff round, is three wins shy - they'll have to get by the top-seeded Soo Eagles - from capturing a division title and a trip to Texas.
"Everyone knows what's at stake," Daikawa said. "Everybody wants to be a national champion, it's our goal, and we've set our sights on the Robertson Cup."
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Not a single player currently on the Jamestown Ironmen roster has won a Robertson Cup in his career. In fact, not many have even had, until very recently, much experience with playoff hockey.
Their coach, however, has, and the team is leaning heavily on Dan Daikawa's championship experience as they venture further and further into the playoffs.
"It's not easy to explain how hard it is (to win championships and playoff games)," Daikawa said. "We don't have a lot of guys who can do that besides us in the coaching staff. Until you really get a feel for it, though, it's hard to understand (even if someone does explain it). It's just hard to win games."
Nevertheless, the coach has done his best to relay his experiences to his players.
Daikawa, a native of Apple Valley, Minn., won three championships while playing professional hockey in Japan - two with Seibu and one with Kokudo.
"We probably never had the most talented team, but we had the most tight-knit group and just believed in each other," Daikawa said. "I think that's the way our team is here. We have good skill players, but we also have a situation where the guys really do care about each other and want to stick together as a team."
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Jamestown will begin the best-of-five, final round of the North Division playoffs on the road in Saul Ste. Marie, Mich., with Game 1 slated for 7:30 p.m., Friday and Game 2 a day later at the same time.
The Ironmen left for Michigan on Wednesday morning.
"We'll travel about eight hours, spend the night, wake up and drive to Michigan," Daikawa explained. "And then we'll go right to the rink.
"We're going to try and get an extra day in. (Soo's) rink is a little bit different than ours, it's older and the puck bounces quite differently. An extra day on the ice will really make a difference."
For fans who want to watch the action on Thursday and Friday, the game will be shown at Sully's in the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.