Bauer switches from making hockey equipment to medical gear

The hockey manufacturing company Bauer had been winding down business in both of its North American manufacturing facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the company figured, if it couldn't provide helmets and skates for elite athletes, perhaps it could use its resources to help doctors, nurses and other first responders in the medical field.

Bauer is now producing medical shields that could be delivered to hospitals as soon as next week. By Wednesday morning, Bauer had orders come in to its Quebec facility for more than 100,000 units across Canada, according to Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly.

The company is also looking to provide for the United States.

"In the U.S., honestly, the word is not out yet." Kinnaly said. "We've been doing outreach to various medical entities....we're also going to use our social channels to basically let the medical community know that we have the ability to produce these."

Kinnaly said the medical shields are worn in conjunction with regular medical masks that go over the nose and mouth, providing total facial protection by also covering the eyes. He said the cost of each medical shield is about $3 in the U.S., including shipping. The company does not expect to make any profit on the new endeavor.

Bauer now has a dozen employees working at its Liverpool, New York, facility, which typically focuses on the lacrosse business, and approximately 20 in its Quebec facility, which usually produces custom skates for Bauer's elite hockey athletes across the world -- including the NHL's Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov and Henrik Lundqvist. Kinnaly said the number of employees working on the project will go up, based on the demand they are already seeing.

"That's the ancillary benefit to it," Kinnaly said. "We can keep some people employed to work on these."

Bauer had some raw materials in-house; other components will be sourced locally in upstate New York and Quebec. Bauer produced a half dozen prototypes to get the fit right. The company then used relationships some employees had with medical professionals to review the product, testing on whether the fit was right and if it had the right coverage. That process -- from being greenlit, to securing the funding, to finding the right model -- was completed in four working days.

The shields will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis based on demand, and Bauer will not be working with any individual consumers.

"Frankly I wish we could do more," Kinnaly said. "Any way we can help, we're going to try."