Bauer Hockey, one of the best-known hockey equipment manufacturers, has jumped into the medical shield business to help with the shortage of face shields for medical workers battling the coronavirus.

Bauer, which is based in Ontario, is also the parent company for Cascade Lacrosse, an equipment manufacturer in Liverpool, N.Y. Liverpool is about a 15-minute drive away from Syracuse in upstate New York. The face shields are also being produced by Bauer in Blainville, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal.

Because the coronavirus pandemic put hockey on hold, Bauer had slowed its production of game equipment. But that has led to some ingenuity for a need in the medical field.

"With hockey pausing, we started to ramp down production at our manufacturing plants and also distribution," said Mary-Kay Messier, the vice president of global marketing for Bauer Hockey. "We have a lot of employees who have family members who are front-line workers, whether it be nurses or emergency medical first responders.

"This (equipment) need is so dire that people are being asked to make their own devices or to reuse medical masks. I think because of that, our engineers were inspired to brainstorm and think about what we could do and how we can contribute and make a difference. Within four days, they had built a prototype, been able to work with medical professionals to vet out the design for function and safety and we've produced over 100,000 of them."

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For hockey players in juniors or professional hockey, clear shields protect the eyes and upper faces. For the medical professionals, it is helping with keep them safe from the virus by providing protection for the face, front of the neck and ears. With the virus continuing to spread, Bauer is looking to add employees to keep up with the demand.

"We're prioritizing Canada and the U.S. just because the demand is so high and then we'll figure it out from there," Messier said. "As we continue to ramp up our capacity and capabilities at our manufacturing plants, we can determine, based on the demand, how much we can actually manufacture on the line.

"One of our goals is to get these medical devices into the hands of the people that need it most, as quickly as possible. Streamlining any kind of distribution is really important."

People can go to Bauer.com to order the face shields. Messier said that the demand for the face shields has not just come from hospitals.

"I received an email from a company that looks out for about 250 different hospitals and organizations that have a range of medical professions from nursing homes, emergency medical and caretakers," she said. "There's also been big hospitals. It's been across the board."

While there is a need for other medical supplies, at this point, Bauer is looking to keep up with the face shield demand and hope it inspires other manufacturers.

"I think we have our hands full with the face shields, given the demand," Messier said. "These medical shields are so important when you think about the coronavirus pandemic.

"The hope is that when other companies see this, it inspires them about what they could potentially do to make a difference. We need a lot of different corporations and individuals contributing in a lot of ways to get past this."

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