Red Wings, Blackhawks, Flyers help sanitize masks for frontline workers

DETROIT – During the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen so many people step up to help in any way they can.

The Red Wings Organization has chipped in -- but how does hockey and personal protection equipment go together?

On the ice, the Red Wings and Blackhawks would never work together, but when it comes to helping the frontline workers, it’s an easy choice.

Typically, hockey is played this time of year and Paul Boyer would be problem solving as the Red Wings equipment manager. But these aren’t normal times, hockey is suspended and Boyer is at home in Metro Detroit.

A few weeks ago, his phone rang.

“I got a call from Chris Illitch. He wanted to know if we had any ozone sanitizing machines because GM was looking for them,” Boyer said.

Those machines are used to sanitize the equipment the players wear.

RELATED: An inside look at GM’s mask manufacturing in Warren

“It kills the bacteria that lives in the gloves, shoulder pads, shin pads -- things like that,” Boyer said.

What did GM want with them? The auto maker could make a lot of masks for front line workers at their Warren facility, but they were getting held up at the sanitizing step. That’s where Boyer and the NHL come in -- the Red Wings sanitizing system is built in to their HVAC system in their new building, but Boyer knew other teams had portable options. That’s when he picked up the phone.

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks stepped up right away and donated their machines. GM had them within days.

“I knew my colleagues would be willing to help immediately. We’re not playing, that machine is sitting idle,” Boyer said. "That’s what Harry from Philly told me. Might has well do some good.

Boyer also got one machine donated from a Grosse Pointe skate shop. Then he personally went to Warren to help GM set it up. GM Manufacturing Director and engineer Rob Portugaise said it shows the character of the hockey community.

“They have a reputation of being a tight knit community and to be able to witness that first-hand was really something,” Portugaise said. “They just wanted to help out.”

With Boyer’s help and that of the Blackhawks and the Flyers, GM was able to double its production. The company said they’re now able to produce about 3 million masks a month.

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