Her long braid is sticking out of her helmet, she has a hockey stick in her left hand and she’s cheering.
Look across the street from where she is, and you’ll find five other excited young hockey players doing the exact same thing — leaned over the boards, helmets on, yelling. This group of kids has been here a while, outside the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto, but the nearby braided female player is new to the scene.
And, as Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford puts it, “the hope is she can be a conversation-starter.”
On Monday morning in downtown Toronto, a temporary statue of a female hockey player — “The Game is For Us All,” it’s officially called — was unveiled at 33 Yonge St., not far from the iconic one outside the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The statue is a joint project of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and Budweiser, the company which from Day 1 has been a partner of the women’s hockey organization — the one composed of many of the best players in the world, who don’t have a Canadian-based pro league to play in.
The words you won’t miss on the statue: This Game is for us all.
“This was an idea: ‘How do we spark those positive and much-needed conversations?’” said Hefford, the PWHPA’s operations consultant. “I liken it to the fearless girl that’s on Wall Street in New York City. Hopefully it sparks that conversation and is a sort of inspiration for people. It’s the opportunity to have the conversation around visibility, and how do we increase that in women’s hockey, and how do we help to sort of change that culture?”
The statue, featuring the unmistakable message “This Game is for us all,” is a joint project of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and Budweiser. (Photo courtesy: PWHPA)
The timing and location of this statue are purposeful, too. This week, the Hockey Hall of Fame, located nearby at 30 Yonge St., will be holding its induction and celebration from Nov. 12-15 for the pandemic-delayed class of 2020 — Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Wilson. The Hall of Fame was made aware of the new temporary statue across the street.
“We know that there’s going to be a lot of hockey folks in Toronto over the next week, we know that the induction weekend is such a special time for our sport and, of course, we’re all really excited to see Kim St-Pierre be inducted as the eighth woman and the first goaltender,” said Hefford, the four-time Olympic gold medallist who was inducted herself back in 2018.
“I think anytime a female gets inducted it does allow for the great spotlight on the women’s game,” Hefford added. “I see it as a real positive message. In my experiences with the Hall, they have been so welcoming to the women that they’ve brought in. The first women were inducted 11 years ago now. It’s really about celebrating the women, and the timing is just so good because we know that the hockey world is going to either be in Toronto or watching Toronto.”
The statue was Budweiser’s idea, to address the fact that many symbols in the game are representative only of men and boys.
“The statue, where the statue’s going, is really about centring and focusing the hockey world and provoking conversation that we have a ways to go,” Budweiser Canada’s senior marketing director, Mike D’Agostini, said. “Really it’s about putting it in a place where the hockey world’s going to be focused.”
Jayna Hefford, the 2018 Hall of Fame inductee and current chairperson of the PWHPA, stands next to the “This Game is For Us All” statue in downtown Toronto. (Photo courtesy: PWHPA)
The PWHPA partner will also be syncing up the Budweiser red goal lights to go off when PWHPA goals are scored — maybe in time for the first few games of the season, which are happening Nov. 12-14 in Truro, NS. D’Agostini says the hope is to have the lights firing then, but they’ll definitely be going off for a future PWHPA stop coming up next month. Budweiser will also be encouraging all its partner bars and restaurants — there are thousands across the country — to air PWHPA games on their televisions.
“It’s always trying to capture fans and new fans and sometimes it just takes somebody else putting it on, right?” Hefford said. “If you have the game playing on TV in a restaurant or a bar, it brings credibility to it and hopefully it intrigues some new fans that haven’t seen the game before.
“If we’re going to allow for the game to grow and we’re going to put it in a place to be successful for many years, I think we really have to address the inclusivity piece. A part of that is gender — that’s not the only part of it, of course. The idea of women and young girls feeling there’s a place for them in hockey, I think, is critical for the long-term success of our sport.”
The Game is For Us All statue will be up in downtown Toronto until Monday, Nov. 15.