On-ice experiences help make iTunes App
Dustin Sproat knows a thing or two about hockey.
The 32-year-old developed his skills in the Red Deer Minor Hockey system before playing with the Drayton Valley Thunder in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Princeton University Tigers in Division 1 of the NCAA.
He also spent three years in the East Coast Hockey League with the Fresno Falcons and Cincinnati Cyclones, and is currently a member of the Bentley Generals Senior AAA Hockey Club.
Sproat has taken some of his on-ice expertise and connections, and packaged them into an iTunes App that he hopes will catch on with fans and players.
Available to iPhone, iPod and iPad users since October, Shnarped Hockey contains statistics — as well as biographical and personal information — about all of the players in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, Central Hockey League and ECHL.
The free app also gives users a direct Twitter link to the players they’re tracking, as well as the means to congratulate those players and receive a response.
Sproat said this interactive feature, and Shnarped Hockey’s inclusion of four pro leagues in its database, distinguish it from other hockey apps.
Currently, more than 150 pro players are verified users.
These include more than 30 NHLers, among them Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks.
In fact, said Sproat, hockey players were firmly in his mind, and the minds of his partners Kyle Hagel and Kamil Sikorski, when they created Shnarped Hockey. He described how pro players are always seeking information about friends and former teammates playing in other leagues.
“We built this cool tracking system so they can kind of keep track of their buddies as they get called up and sent down.”
The wealth of data provided by the app would also be valuable to coaches and scouts, said Sproat.
“We should be adding NCAA and hope to be adding some junior leagues sometime soon, so that will help the scouting.”
As important as it is to get pro players using Shnarped Hockey, the buy-in of fans is essential for its long-term viability.
“At some point somebody is going to have to pay for something,” explained Sproat.
That “something” could take the form of in-app purchases, such as system upgrades or bonus features. But for now, the plan is to build the community of Shnarped Hockey users — both players and fans.
Sproat and Hagel played together at Princeton, and later at Fresno. Hagel is currently a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
“It was because of my and Kyle’s playing experience that we were able to come up with the product,” said Sproat. “But maybe more importantly, it’s the network that we have of players.”
The founders’ hockey background is evident from the name Shnarped. It’s derived from Shnarps, a card game often played by pro players during road trips.
Sproat said he’s received good feedback from players using the app.
“The people who have it use it a lot and they say really good things about it.”
Some have commented positively about fans’ ability to send them messages, including a complimentary “pound” to players they deem deserving of praise.
“It’s like a tap on the shin pads kind-of-thing,” said Sproat.
Currently completing an MBA at the University of British Columbia, Sproat has been returning to Central Alberta on weekends to play with the Generals.
He said work on his masters, as well as the engineering degree he earned at Princeton, helped him develop Shnarped Hockey.
“I’ve been working on this for two years now.”
Improvements planned for the future include the addition of player video highlights and news articles.
“It’s definitely a work in progress.”
Additional information about Shnarped Hockey can be found onoine at www.shnarped.com.