As if its arrival triggered our release from gravity’s pull, the COVID-19 pandemic has left us suspended. But while much of life in North America is floating at half-speed, awaiting a return to normalcy, on the front lines of the fight against the virus’s impact, the feeling is every bit the opposite.

An already tense effort to manage the rising number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada and the United States has been intensified by increasingly desperate calls from front-line medical personnel for the protective equipment needed to safely do their jobs.

And amid those growing calls for support, the hockey world has offered an unlikely reply.

In Blainville, Que., at Bauer Hockey’s research and development centre in late March, engineers from the hockey equipment manufacturer and its sister company Cascade, based out of Liverpool, N.Y., first mulled the potential of reworking the production of items like helmets and visors into face shields for front-line workers. It took just four days to produce a prototype, bring in medical professionals to test it out, get it certified and begin bringing units off the line.

On March 26, the company announced it had been authorized to move ahead with supplying medical personnel, triggering an immediate flood of demand.

“We were completely overwhelmed within 48 hours, with orders for over a million units,” says Mary-Kay Messier, Bauer’s vice-president of global marketing.