Laila Edwards becomes first Black woman on US National Hockey team

BY Preta Peace Namasaba November 15, 2023 11:15 AM EDT
Laila Edwards. Photo credit: USA Hockey

Laila Edwards has become the first Black woman to play for the United States Senior National hockey team. The 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Wisconsin played her first game with the team against Canada in the Rivalry Series.

Standing at 6’1, Edwards holds the title of the tallest player on the team. Her style of play is marked by a compelling blend of speed and strength. Noteworthy for her exceptional decision-making abilities, she showcases remarkable versatility and a highly competitive spirit. Despite her youth, Edwards possesses advanced skills that make her standout, earning her the reputation of being a ‘dream to play with’.

“It’s my first time playing at that stage. I’m glad I’ve been blessed enough to have this opportunity, glad that I can, hopefully, inspire the next generation for anyone but, more specifically, women of color. There are plenty of other people who can be idolized, but not many people who look like me.”

Laila Edwards in NHL

Edwards is the only one on the 26-member roster marking her senior national team debut. The squad includes 22 players from the world championship roster from last April. This places Edwards in a prime position to be part of the US team at the 2024 World Championships. If selected, she would become the first Black woman to represent Team USA at Women’s Worlds.

She has earned 18 points in 12 games and is fifth in scoring with the University of Wisconsin this season. Edwards had 27 points in 41 games in her freshman season and won the 2023 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four championship. She was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie team.

Edwards was an alternate captain on the U.S. team at the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. The team won silver at the tournament. She was named the tournament’s most valuable player, and best forward and honored with a spot on the All-Tournament team.

“It’s an honor to be the first Black woman on the national team, but this team’s been around for a long time. 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.”

Laila Edwards in Andscape

Edwards hails from a hockey family. Her father, Robert, was a recreational hockey player and her mother, Charone, would take the family skating almost every day. Her brother played club hockey at Bowling Green State University and her sister, Chayla, is also on the Wisconsin team.

She went from initially playing hockey on boys’ teams to joining an elite girls’ hockey program at Bishop Kearney. She established herself as a starlet, amassing 147 goals and 417 points.