The current NHL season may be in TBD mode but hockey is still in the headlines, as equipment manufacturer Bauer has started making face shields for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
And while the dearth of sports news continues to dampen the spirits of fans everywhere, there is no doubt that sports will return, says Ed Kinnaly, CEO of Bauer parent company Peak Achievement Athletics.
News broke last week that Bauer, gear maker for hockey, baseball and lacrosse, had been granted approval by the Quebec government to start producing face shields, in aid of supporting healthcare workers who by many accounts across North America could be facing shortages in protective equipment even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ramp up across the continent.
Bauer, which has manufacturing facilities in Blainville, Quebec, and Liverpool, New York, said that with its sports equipment-making shuttered for the time being, the move was a no-brainer to transfer its technology to healthcare protection.
“It actually wasn't that difficult at all,” Kinnaly said, in conversation with CNBC on Monday. “I mean, we saw a problem and created a solution. The problem was quite different but the process that we used was not compared to what we traditionally do when we approach creating products for athletes.”
“We turned on production full speed today and we're going to be able to produce about 20,000 to 25,000 units a week, ramping up to about 70,000 units a week later in April,” Kinnaly said.
Bauer said it won’t be making a profit on the shields and it plans to put its design specifications and assembly instructions online so that other companies can download them for their own production.
Kinnaly said, “We want to be as inclusive as we can in the process help as many other companies try to lend a hand to the situation.” Major League Baseball apparel company Fanatics is also doing its part, now moving production at its Easton, Pennsylvania, facility from sports jerseys to masks and gowns
for healthcare workers.
The pandemic has shut down all major sports leagues, starting with the NBA which announced a suspension of the 2019-2020 season on March 11 and quickly followed by the NHL and MLB. At the moment, the NFL is planning for a full 16-game season but with the possibility of a delayed start to the year.
Kinnaly said Bauer will take a hit from the lack of sports being played at any level in the current environment but a day will come when sports will return.
“The beautiful thing about sports is you always see it come back. It’s really one of the constants in society so I have full confidence we will see it rebound. The question will for it is the timing of that rebound,” Kinnaly said.
“There's going to be a lot of people impacted obviously economically by this situation, we have our partner retailers that will be impacted and consumer purchasing power will be impacted for a particular period of time,” he said. “Based on the strength of our brands we feel very good about our market position and the business coming back.”