Bauer, one of the leading manufacturers of hockey equipment, is making face shields for medical workers treating patients with the coronavirus.
"We're just so fortunate to have such a talented employee base that's also really passionate," Mary-Kay Messier, Bauer vice president of global marketing, said Wednesday. "Protecting athletes has been in our DNA, part of our heritage, since 1927. This is an opportunity to shift gears. This is a time that none of us has ever experienced before. You think about hockey being team first and then you also think about the greater community and how connected we are, I think this felt similar in that we needed to unite in this most uncertain time and [have] everybody pick up an oar and start rowing."
She said Bauer went from the initial brainstorming session to developing early prototypes in about four days.
"They do have the capacity to ramp up (very quickly)," said Messier, the sister of Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier.
"I wouldn't say it's easy, but it's doable, and when you have people that are really passionate and talented, you make it happen."
The protective shields are being made at Bauer's research and development facility in Blainville, Quebec, and its facility in Liverpool, New York, which primarily produces Bauer's lacrosse gear.
The first shipments will go to doctors and nurses in Canada, with future distribution planned for the United States.
"We have some contacts, through our own personal relationships," Messier said, "but we've also had people reaching out to get the medical shields, and that's what we're working on right now, what's the best plan to distribute and how do we get these medical shields in the hands of the people who need them as quickly as possible."
The demand has been so high that Bauer has made its manufacturing package public on its website, including design, material specifications and instructions, hoping other companies can use it to make similar shields.
The shields are made from some of the same components that go into helmet visors, and each costs about $3 to make, including shipping.
"We're not expecting to make any profit on this," Messier said. "The intention would be to get our costs covered because this is a challenging time for all companies. One of the benefits also is to be able to have some of our people in the manufacturing plants be able to work."
Supply-line changes and maintaining proper safe working conditions have been worthwhile challenges, Messier said.
"We know these medical shields and other devices are in short supply," Messier said. "We've heard different folks say, how can companies get on board and help in these efforts? We're just really fortunate to be able to be in a position to do that and have the people that are really passionate willing and committed to making the change and doing everything they can to make a difference."