MADISON – Laila Edwards sat in the locker room last week with a lot of her idols.

Former Wisconsin Badgers star Hilary Knight was there. Two-time Olympic medalists Alex Carpenter and Megan Keller were as well. On the ice, Edwards played on the same line as UW great Abby Roque.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward for Wisconsin soaked up her first experience with the U.S. national team. She also made history and drew attention nationwide by becoming the first Black woman to suit up for the U.S senior team.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce doesn’t just give anyone a shoutout, and Blake Bolden, the first Black woman drafted into the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, doesn’t go watch just anyone play.

The New York Times featured Edwards. ESPNW and Essence Magazine posted about her accomplishment on social media.

Those are pretty good bonus prizes for living out a dream.

“It’s an honor. I’m grateful and I take pride in it,” Edwards said. “I’m glad that I can be a role model to girls of color and boys out there.”

Laila Edwards worked her way up the ranks of USA hockey

Edwards played in the second game of the Rivalry Series that pits the United States against Canada. She didn’t record a goal or an assist in the 5-2 win Saturday in Los Angeles.

The moment was one that has been in the making for a couple of years.

Edwards attended  the USA Hockey girls U15 development camp four years ago. In 2021 she participated in the USA Hockey girls U18 select player development camp. The next year she was the MVP of the IIHF U18 world championship and was part of the U.S. collegiate select team in 2022.

For the Rivalry Series, Edwards was joined on the roster by UW teammates Britta Curl and Lacey Eden. Seven former Badgers, including Roque, Knight and Sarah Nurse (Canada) played in the series’ first weekend.

“There were a lot of people who reached out,” Edwards said. “It made me feel as if I’m making a difference and I think that is my main goal, especially right now, to make a difference and be a role model …  It was really motivating to keep going no matter what.”

Edwards joined her older sister, Chayla, at Wisconsin last season and helped the Badgers win a national championship. This year the sisters have been key players for a team that has been ranked No. 1 all season.

Wisconsin's Laila Edwards has five goals and 13 assists for the top-ranked Badgers this season.

Laila Edwards chose hockey over figure skating

Their father, Robert, introduced them to the sport.

“We did a little bit of figure skating, too,” Edwards said, “but I remember comparing figure skating and hockey and hockey was so much more fun and interactive and a little bit physical even at the age of 3.

“I liked hitting the little rubber disc around. That’s what kept bringing me back to it and I’m glad it did.”

Heading into the Badgers’ series at No. 2 Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, Edwards is fifth on the team in scoring with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) and is tied for the team lead in plus/minus (+21). The series will be a homecoming of sorts for Edwards, who grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Who knows, the matchup might catch Kelce’s attention. Kelce is also from Cleveland Heights. Edwards said the two attended the same middle school.

After hearing the shoutout, she sent him a thank you note and Kelce responded, saying he would follow her journey.

It was a wow moment in what Edwards described as an overwhelming but satisfying experience.

“But it’s a great thing to be overwhelmed with, so I’m definitely not complaining,” Edwards said. “It’s been a lot. It’s tested my patience, my maturity, but I think it’s been great for my improvement as a person.”