Cascade Lacrosse, the global leader in manufacturing helmets and headwear for the men’s and women’s game, has a motto: PASSION TO PROTECT.


"It’s written on our walls," said Win Fream, the company’s senior director of product design and development.


So it’s no wonder, with the demand for protective medical equipment soaring amid the coronavirus pandemic, that Fream and his team would be inspired to help.


Cascade, a subsidiary of Exeter-based Peak Achievement Athletics, has repurposed its production facility in Liverpool, New York, to make face shields for first responders and hospital workers in the fight against COVID-19. In partnership with Bauer Hockey, they’re prepared to build 2,000 face shields per day and 10,000 per week for distribution across the United States and Canada.


"And we’re able to make more of them if needed," said Fream, a Newfields resident. "It’s a no-brainer for anybody here. We all feel like we’re doing the right thing."


What started as an idea last Wednesday blossomed into a full-blown initiative by the weekend. The product specs were developed with emergency nurse practitioner Brendan Johnson of Lahey Medical Center. By Monday, they had their first prototype samples to test. They’ve spent the rest of the week getting the word out through various social media channels and publications — the Boston Globe, ESPN and Sports Illustrated among them — and setting up for production. Face shields could be ready to ship as soon as next week.


"We’re working carefully," Fream said. "We’re playing on a totally different field, totally different game — but we’re on the field. We’re pretty excited."


Bauer, the well-known hockey equipment and apparel manufacturer, is owned by Cascade’s parent company Peak Achievement Athletics, which is headquartered on Domain Drive in Exeter. The same face shields — only with "BAUER" inscribed on the facing side of the foam brow covering — will be built in Blainville, Quebec, and distributed mostly in Canada to start.


The project will be carried out by 45 to 50 seasonal, part-time manufacturing employees, with the possibility for more depending on demand. Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly told ESPN their Quebec facility already has orders for more than 100,000 units.


Mary-Kay Messier, Bauer’s vice president of global marketing, said in a phone interview that the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres have reached out, looking to get involved. A tweet posted by Bauer Hockey with a brief description of the project and a photo generated more than 4,000 retweets and 16,000 likes on Wednesday.


"It’s a really proud day," Messier said. "Our social media channels are lit up, because this is the kind of thing that’s why we exist — to help the team. It transcends hockey.


"When you get to this level, there are no competitors," she added. "The competitor is the pandemic. We’re all just doing what we can."


Each face shield will be designed with a one-size-fits-all elastic strap and a visor that completely covers the face. They are to be worn in conjunction with regular medical masks that go over the nose and mouth, and can also be worn with eye protection such as glasses or goggles.


"What this does is creates a physical barrier between the patient and the medical professional," Fream said. "It is to stop particulates from the patient (like liquid splatter) from coming into contact with the medical professional."


The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.


As of Thursday morning there were more than 68,500 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 1,000 deaths. Canada’s cases have climbed to more than 3,400 and there are more than 470,000 cases worldwide with about 23,000 total fatalities.


"This is like playing man-down in the national championship," said Fream, offering up a lacrosse analogy. "No faceoff guy. And the goalie? He’s not in the net. OK, we can play. We’re just going to throw the best players in the world out there."


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