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A staff member wears a medical visor produced by Bauer Hockey for medical staff fighting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Exeter, N.H., on March 25, 2020.

BAUER HOCKEY/Reuters

Hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer has shifted from making visors for helmets to medical visors for those fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

When hockey came to a halt amid the global pandemic, Bauer faced the possibility of closing its manufacturing plant in Blainville, Que., but engineers there instead brainstormed the idea of producing medical shields to help protect people on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

They came up with a prototype, and Bauer vice-president of global marketing Mary-Kay Messier said there were 100,000 devices ready for distribution by this week. They’re expected to first go to doctors and nurses in Canada, then the U.S.

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“There’s a real shortage, a dire shortage of medical devices and gear that’s needed to keep people on the front lines safe,” Messier said.

The medical shields are being produced in Quebec and a facility in Liverpool, N.Y., that primarily makes Bauer’s lacrosse equipment. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Exeter, N.H.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno tweeted: “Awesome work BauerHockey. Like many, I’m proud to wear your equipment! Thanks for making a difference where it matters!” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire added, “I’m proud to see this NH business adapt to help health care workers’ needs during this time.”

Spokeswoman Vanessa McMains of Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore said volunteers are assembling face shields and 35,000 fanny packs with gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to be distributed to those in close contact with COVID-19 patients. She said Johns Hopkins was preparing for a shortage in the U.S. similar to what has happened to other countries around the world.

Congress’ $2.2 trillion virus relief package earmarked $1 billion under the Defence Production Act to help private industry boost the production of medical gear.

“Every company has something that they can contribute,” Messier said. “It’s just a matter of a little bit of creativity to try and think about what it could be.”

Bauer is still ramping up production of the medical shields, and Messier said she hopes other companies follow suit. She said in times of tragedy, rival manufacturers should not be competitors.

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“You’re really just all in on it together in how you can help the team,” she said. “I think about hockey. It’s really a team sport, right? And we’re fortunate to work in that kind of environment, and in this time it’s about how can we support the greater community.”

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