A hockey company headquartered in New England is eager to help doctors, nurses, and first responders in the fight against coronavirus.
As of Thursday morning, Bauer will begin mass-producing face shields using materials originally slated to make helmets and protective gear. The company, based in Exeter, N.H., will make them at two locations: Blainville, Quebec, and Liverpool, N.Y.
Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly told the Globe over the phone Wednesday that the company has orders from across the US and Canada, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and was sending prototypes to Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We’ve been doing most of the work from FedEx and teleconference,” he said. “We sent people into both facilities to set up a production line. Now we’re turning it on.”
Kinnaly said Bauer had orders for more than 100,000 units in Canada, where it first began making them, and expected US orders to rise quickly. They are starting out with two dozen employees producing up to 4,000 shields a day between the two facilities.
“We’re going to make as many as we can,” Kinnaly said. “I’d rather have too many and have to figure out what to do with them after the fact than not have enough. It’s a low-cost way for us to be part of the solution.”
According to Kinnaly, two employees, Win Fream and Dave Christopher, called him last Tuesday with the idea. A day later, they sent him drawings.
“They said, ‘We need permission to spend some money,’ ” Kinnaly said. “I said, ‘Spend as much as you need. Build the prototype.’ ”
Less than a week later, he had two shields — one for his desk, and one for his wife, Karen, a nurse.
The single-use device, which resembles a welder’s shield and replicates what’s already on the medical supply market, costs $3 to make. Bauer is selling them at cost.
“What we’ve been told by the medical community is you still need the mask that goes over your mouth and nose,” Kinnaly said, “but this provides protection from any splatter or coughing that might get on the skin or in the eyes.”
Bauer is using webbing, straps, and foam that normally would be used in products such as helmets and shoulder pads. The plastic face shield was sourced from local providers in upstate New York and Quebec.
Bauer manufactures its high-end professional skates in Blainville, north of Montreal. Known internally as “the NASA of hockey,” it is where most of the company’s research and development takes place. Another brand under the company, Cascade Lacrosse, makes helmets and face protection for that sport in upstate Liverpool, near Syracuse.
Though nonessential businesses have been ordered closed in both locations, Bauer is going on the assumption that this would be considered essential, given that it is providing assistance to medical professionals.
“We’re not waiting for permission,” said Kinnaly, who grew up in Saugus, attended St. John’s Prep and Babson, and lives in coastal New Hampshire. “If we’re told to shut down, we will, and we’ll eat the expenses associated with making masks.
"We think the risk is worth it. It’s for the greater good.”