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Capital Scholastic Hockey League finishes inaugural season of inclusivity  May 6, 2022 – 12:12 pm
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Two years ago, Robinson Coach Mike Mulligan faced a tough decision. His squad, which had been combined with Stuart, had enough players from Robinson that it could shed its combined label and become a pure team eligible for the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League playoffs. But in order to do that, Mulligan would have been forced to cut a senior from Stuart who had been on the team for three years.

Mulligan wasn’t prepared to do that.

The CSHL’s inaugural season will be capped Friday when the winner of Wednesday’s W.T. Woodson and Robinson matchup plays West Potomac at Prince William Ice Center in the title game. The league — which also consists of Forest Park/Hylton, Hayfield/T.C. Williams/Lee, and Washington-Lee — played a 10-game schedule with most of the games on Friday nights at Prince William.

“The league has been a great opportunity for non-traditional hockey powers to field competitive hockey teams, ” Mulligan said. “The only thing that limits high school hockey in Virginia is more ice time. The benevolence of Prince William to give us those primetime Friday slots made the CSHL a reality. “

In the NVSHL, if a team has fewer than 15 members from one school, it can combine with another school to field a full team, but it must forfeit playoff eligibility. If a school has 15 members from one school, it can’t add players from other schools, which sometimes shuts out players from having the opportunity to play. The Maryland Scholastic Hockey League allows co-op teams to be formed, which consist of players from multiple schools. The co-op teams have playoffs separate from the pure teams.

Mulligan wanted to create an inclusive experience for players that might not have the opportunity to compete because of the schools they attend. Meetings for the league started in May, and Mulligan reached out to coaches he knew to fill it out. W.T. Woodson, Washington-Lee and West Potomac were all members of the NVSHL last season, while Forest Park/Hylton and Hayfield/T.C. Williams/Lee are new teams formed for the league.

All six teams in the CSHL made the playoffs, which Mulligan said encouraged the teams to give all of its players ice time and not “run a short bench.” In the playoffs, sixth-seeded W.T. Woodson upset top-seeded Hayfield/T.C. Williams/Lee and fifth-seeded Robinson beat second-seeded Washington-Lee.

“It allowed for all of these players who typically would have been relegated to non-playoff status . . . to play for the playoffs, ” Mulligan said.

Mulligan called the CSHL’s first season “a fabulous success.” He estimated that 450 fans attended the first round of the playoffs last Friday and he said 500 people attended the league’s all-star two weeks ago at Mount Vernon.

Mulligan said there are plans for the CSHL to expand incrementally next season — he doesn’t see the league having more than 10 teams — but any new entrants would have to be the right fit.

“If you’re a hockey power — if you can play with Landon and Gonzaga — you don’t want to be in our league, ” Mulligan said.

Inclusivity is Mulligan’s goal. He doesn’t have a personal stake in the league, as his son plays junior hockey in Minnesota, but he wants to grow the game for other players that might not have the opportunity to play because of their location or any other number of reasons.

“Our motto is everyone plays, so if everyone makes the playoffs, there’s no reason to shorten the bench and not let everyone play, ” Mulligan said. “Everyone plays to the playoffs and then you see what happens.”

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