Laila Edwards is Now the First Black Woman to Play for U.S. Hockey Team

Over the weekend, history was made when the United States national hockey team fielded a black player against Canada. She is Laila Edwards, a 19-year-old sophomore from Wisconsin. In Los Angeles, she was in a front line alongside Olympian Abby Roque and Badgers colleague Britta Curl.

Her selection to the US national team was not a fluke, nor was it a token gesture. She deserved it. According to The Athletic, Edwards ranks fifth on the team in scoring as a sophomore at Wisconsin, with 18 points in 12 games. In addition, as a freshman, she led the Badgers to their eighth national championship. She was also chosen to the WCHA all-rookie team. She was an alternate captain for the United States team that won silver at the U18 World Championships in 2022 and was awarded tournament MVP.

“It’s an honor to be the first Black woman on the national team, but this team’s been around for a long time,” she said before the game, Andscape reported. “And not to sound ungrateful, but it would have been nice to have someone that looked like me on that team before me. I’m glad that I’m able to be that someone for another little Black girl out there.”

Edwards, the second youngest of four children, was up in Cleveland Heights and is 6-foot-1 and talented. Her father enjoyed playing hockey as a recreational sport, and her mother, Charone, assisted in coaching them on the rink.

Edwards and her only sister Chayla began with figure skating but switched to hockey full-time around the age of six. Edwards fell in love with the sport and has since matured into it.

She began playing boys’ hockey in elementary school and by seventh grade, Edwards had attracted some of the nation’s best women’s hockey universities. Dan Koch, a long-time associate coach at Wisconsin, was the first to spot her.

She wasn’t particularly tall at the time, but her stature made her a menace.”She could beat people one-on-one.” She was constantly armed with a powerful shot. “She’s also very versatile,” Koch added. “She was simply competitive.” She desired the puck on her stick and possessed a strong skill set. Those were the qualities that drew us to her.”

When she reached eighth grade, she enrolled in an advanced girls’ hockey program at Bishop Kearney, a private school in Rochester, New York. Between eighth and ninth grades, she grew from 5-foot-6 to roughly 5-foot-10.

She was still committed to Wisconsin a year after high school and went on to score 147 goals and 413 points in 287 games at Bishop Kearney. She also trained with the Badgers and eventually moved on to the NCAA.

Her momentous moment came in August, when she received an email informing her that she had been picked for the United States National Team player pool. A month later, she was picked to the Rivalry Series roster for the November games against Canada.

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