When the U.S. women’s national hockey team faces Canada in the Rivalry Series on Wednesday at Mullett Arena, Laila Edwards will become the first Black woman on the team, according to NHL. The 19-year-old said she felt several feelings when she was invited via email to participate in the U.S. women’s national team’s Rivalry Series against Canada in 2023-24.


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“I was definitely super-excited and just humbled and grateful,” Edwards said. “Nervous, too. It’s my first time playing at that stage.”

A sense of history also pervaded the 19-year-old forward at the University of Wisconsin. Edwards will become the first Black player to skate for the U.S. women’s national team.

“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,” she said. “There are plenty of other people who can be idolized, but not many people who look like me.”

Along with Edwards, the roster includes Olympians Hilary Knight, Abby Roque, Hayley Scamurra and 22 other players who played for the U.S. team at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

“A couple of them reached out, congratulating me, which was awesome; it made me feel great,” Edwards explained. “I’m going to put my best foot forward and put myself and the team in the best position to win.”

Edwards ranks fifth in Wisconsin with 18 points in 12 games this season and was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie Team. She was selected as an alternate captain on the U.S. team — taking home a silver medal — at the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. Amongst all players, she tied third place with Sydney Morrow for the U.S. lead.

“She’s earned her way into this position,” Wroblewski said. “I believe in her long-term, otherwise, she wouldn’t be here. I’m just excited for her and all the work that she and her family have put in to be in this position, and just come in, enjoy it, and perform when her number gets called.”

In addition to being named most valuable player, best forward, and official all-tournament team member, she was selected as the tournament’s best forward. John Wroblewski, the U.S. women’s senior national team coach, praised her work ethic to the NHL.

“The thing that you start to notice right away is her brain and how she sees plays develop,” Wroblewski said. “Whether they connect every time is irrelevant. You just notice that the player can see the things that are happening out there and is processing them.”

“Often, what you’ll get from a player who is physically overwhelming for the opponent [is that] he or she will rely on those physical attributes and therefore the hockey IQ isn’t that sharp,” Wroblewski continued. “It’s just the opposite with Laila. Her brain might be a bigger attribute than her size.”