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Jayna Hefford, a four-time Olympian, next to the temporary hockey statue entitled "This Game is For Us All" outside The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Timed to one of the marquee weeks in the hockey calendar, a statue of a female player has been placed across the street from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Those responsible for the temporary statue hope it provokes important conversation about the gender gap that persists in the sport.

The statue, which arrived early Monday morning, will stand on the northeast corner of Front and Yonge Streets for a week – nearby, but independent of, the Hockey Hall of Fame. It depicts a female hockey player cheering on her team from the bench, eager to leap the boards for her shift.

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and Budweiser Canada commissioned the art installation, calling for greater female representation in hockey and its iconography.

The PWHPA and its sponsor say their intent is not to knock the Hockey Hall; they acknowledge the institution welcoming female inductees over the past decade. Canadian Olympian Kim St-Pierre is part of this 2021 class, the eighth woman inducted, and the Hall’s first female goaltender.

The PWHPA’s statue aims to grabs eyeballs during a busy week along that block – the Hall is hosting its induction ceremony on Nov. 15. The statue aims to remind people that while women’s hockey has achieved significant growth, the gender disparity in the sport is still huge. The Hall was given a courtesy heads-up that it’s arriving.

“We think this is a creative way to spark some conversations,” Jayna Hefford, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and current PWHPA operations consultant, told The Globe and Mail. “Hopefully lots of people that are around for that event will be able to see it, take a photo with it, post about it, and drive that conversation around the importance of visibility for women.”

Since it formed in 2019, the PWHPA has been advocating for the creation of a sustainable women’s professional league for the world’s best. Meanwhile, the players have been exhibiting their talents in occasional tour stops, aided by sponsors and a few NHL teams. They regularly point to the disparity of media coverage, hockey resources and sponsorship dollars, compared with men in the sport.

A release from the PWHPA and Budweiser says their statue is “designed to spotlight the lack of female representation in other iconic hockey symbols.” This effort follows a provocative commercial the two collaborated on in 2019, which put a sombre spin on Stompin’ Tom Connors’s The Good Old Hockey Game against a backdrop of that year’s collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

“Female athletes do not receive the same visibility as their male counterparts,” Hefford said. “Even the symbols they proudly wear only visually represent men in sport.”

They have titled the new statue The Game is For Us All and it is glaringly similar to the recognizable statue that has long stood outside of the Hockey Hall. That 17-foot bronze sculpture – called Our Game – depicts a group of youthful players behind their bench, ready to climb over and get in the game. It was commissioned by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993 by artist Edie Parker from Oakville Ont., and inspired by an early 1970s magazine advertisement.

“At the present time, our focus is on the logistics and execution of plans for the upcoming induction weekend/celebration,” read a statement from the Hockey Hall of Fame. “No discussions on making alterations to our existing bas-relief sculpture titled ‘Our Game’ have occurred and it should be noted that there is no gender distinction in how the sculpture is identified.”

Hefford, who was inducted into the Hall in 2018, said she has always felt welcomed in her experiences there, and that the Hall’s decision to start inducting females has enhanced the credibility of women’s hockey.

“I don’t think it’s meant to signify that they’re not included in the statue at the Hall of Fame, but it’s meant to show that, women’s hockey has been something that has made our country very proud – just look at how many people were talking about Marie-Philip Poulin’s goal at the world championships,” Hefford said. “We know that that support is there, but we want it to be consistently there. I want us to ensure that everybody who wants to have a place in our sport sees themselves there.”

The statue will be at Front and Yonge until Nov. 15.

“We have a ways to go in the game of hockey to get equal representation for females,” said Mike D’Agostini, Budweiser Canada’s senior marketing director. “We’re calling for people to watch the game more often. The women are incredibly talented. Collectively we all have to continue to move the game forward.”