HAMILTON, ONT. -- A Canadian company behind an electronic whistle has seen its sales skyrocket during the pandemic as the world of top-tier professional sports looks for a safer way for referees to call games.

Fox 40 is a family-owned business based in Hamilton, Ont. that created the electronic whistle about a decade ago. Up until COVID-19 hit, the company’s largest order was for 3,000 electronic whistles.

Now, it’s received orders for more than 50,000 whistles, with orders from the NFL, the NCAA and the NBA.

The battery-powered electronic whistle is switched on with the touch of a button and can be aimed in specific directions to maximize sound. The selling point: the device doesn’t send extra droplets into the air and can easily be sanitized and reused from one ref to the next.

Founder and CEO of Fox 40 Ron Foxcroft, a former basketball referee, got into the whistle business after he noticed problems with the standard whistle, which contains a small ball inside known as a pea.

“The pea would get stuck or the sides would blow out of the whistle, it really wasn't a good thing,” Foxcroft told CTV News.

So he created a pealess whistle, marketed as more durable than the standard whistle. The company now sells a variety of the devices, but the electronic whistle has been its biggest seller as of late.

The company has created a miniature version of the device and is working on a rechargeable version.

But not everyone is sold on the device. Concerns have been raised that the electronic whistle could be pressed accidentally, and others have raised concerns about the volume not being strong enough.

"We heard that the sound of the electronic whistle in the arena was not high enough,” said Yvan Dallaire, managing director of Hockey Quebec.

Foxcroft insists that, now more than ever, innovations like his are essential.

"We don't want to be a statistic -- we need to be flexible, we need to be innovative.”​