Laila Edwards: The First Black National Ice Hockey Player in the United States

Laila Edwards: The First Black National Ice Hockey Player in the United States

When she watched women’s national team games on television, Laila Edwards never saw a black player. She was always the only African American in the locker room. Today, Edwards is the first black national ice hockey player in the United States – and above all, she wants to be a role model.

Jackie Robinson doesn’t need much explaining in American sports history. His name is the epitome of a pioneer. For someone who has achieved something historic. Robinson became the first black man to play Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947.

His debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers was nothing short of revolutionary. Baseball was America’s favorite sport at the time, but it was also strictly segregated. The best whites played in MLB, the best blacks in the Negro Leagues. Then Robinson came along and broke the so-called “color barrier.”

Honor, pride and melancholy

Laila Edwards did something similar a few weeks ago. Almost 76.5 years after Robinson. The 19-year-old was the first black member of the United States women’s national ice hockey team. On November 11, Edwards made his debut in a 5–2 victory in Los Angeles against Canada. She later said it was “an honor” and that she was “grateful and proud.”

However, she also felt an audible melancholy. As beautiful and historic as it all was, she was also sad that it took so long before a black woman was finally allowed to wear the national jersey, Edwards said.

Lots of success, little diversity

Blake Boldon could have been the one to make history in 2012. The defender was invited to the World Cup preparation training camp. And in the opinion of many experts, Bolton should have made the final squad, but have still not been named. A year later, she experienced it all again. Nothing happened for ten years after that, and then along came Laila Edwards. His idol: Blake Boldon.

The Women’s Ice Hockey World Championship has existed since 1990. At that time, the United States had around 6,000 players registered. That number now stands at 88,000 and the United States is the dominant nation alongside Canada, having won two Olympic gold medals and ten world championships. However, what has remained virtually the same over the past 33 years: the lack of diversity.

Ice hockey instead of figure skating – “luckily”

Ice hockey is still considered a white sport, for both women and men. The percentage of blacks is less than 10%. “Growing up, I always watched the national team games and really enjoyed it,” Edwards recalls. What was missing: “Someone who looks like me.”

She started playing ice hockey at the age of five. She actually wanted to become a figure skater, Edwards said, but her father, an ice hockey player, had other plans for her. “Luckily,” she says today. Edwards noticed early on that she was always the only black person in the locker room – and that there was a classification of people with her skin color.

Is white sports ice hockey more accessible to black children?

For example, when she arrives at a large sports complex, the person at reception immediately shows her the way to the basketball hall. A tall black girl – apparently that could only be a basketball player. After all, that’s how it’s always been. Of course, Edwards also noticed the looks of surprise and sometimes even astonishment when she later confidently responded that she was here “to play ice hockey.”

In the days following her debut, the attacker received numerous messages. Messages full of gratitude. Messages that gave him the feeling of “making a difference”. Thanks to her and her first appearance in the American national jersey, the white sport of ice hockey may have become a little more tangible for black children – and therefore more realistic.

Inspiration for Black Girls and Boys

Edwards created a platform and can now use it so that maybe kids who have never thought about playing hockey can go to their parents and ask if they could get a pair of skates, says Mark Johnson . He coaches Edwards at the University of Wisconsin, where the teenager is a sophomore.

Edwards knows his role as a role model – and embraces it. She wants to be an inspiration to all girls and boys, she says, but especially to black girls and boys. “I want them to see me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too.’ »

Next goal: making World Cup history

There have been several pioneers in the history of women’s ice hockey. Canadian Angela James became the first Black person inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. Her compatriot Sarah Nurse became the first Black woman to win Olympic gold in 2022. Julie Chu was the first player in the Asian American national team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, and Abby Roque was the indigenous pioneer in Beijing last year.

Laila Edwards’ name has also been on this list for a few weeks. And she could soon make history again by becoming the first black member of the U.S. national team to compete in a World Cup. It would even be a home game for them. The tournament will take place April 3-14 in Utica, New York.

2023-12-24 22:36:41
#black #girl #conquers #white #sport

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