Monday, 5 November 2012

Tech Time: Shnarped Hockey

I might be one of the few remaining souls on the planet that has not converted to the iPhone. I still use my Blackberry for my daily texting, emailing, and phone calling, and it has served me well in the three-or-so years I've been using it. However, the number of iPhone apps that serve the hockey community seem to be growing, and I received a great email from someone who is inside the industry about a new app available through the iTunes store. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the above icon for the Shnarped Hockey app.

Here's the email I received, and I thought this was one of the coolest emails I've ever received since an actual professional hockey player reached out to HBIC! Kyle Hagel, currently a winger for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, wrote,
"I'm a hockey player with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL. I know that you're busy blogging about the lockout and all that right now but I'm writing to ask if you've heard of the iphone app Shnarped Hockey. Myself and a former teammate of mine Dustin Sproat have been working on it for several months and we finally have it in the App store. An updated version actually just went in there tonight.

"You can easily track all active pro players in North America. It combines current and career stats with the guy's salary information, bio and his Twitter feed if it's available. You can also send the guy a 'pound' (like a fist bump or virtual tap on the shinpads), and post a message on his wall. We provide a platform for player and fan interaction so that fans can get a personal look at the players, and the players can look good to their fans.

"We have about 100 pros verified on the site but we're looking to push it to fans. Is there any way you'd be interested in throwing a blog up about our product?"
I have to admit that I was quite intrigued by this offer, so I did what any respectable human being would do - I downloaded it onto my better half's iPhone! From there, I performed a rigorous schedule of testing to try and find some bugs, quirks, or code that didn't work so well. Instead, I found a pretty slick app!

I can honestly say that the price of FREE is an excellent starting point with this app. It certainly won't blow your socks off in terms of what it does, but it's a very useful app in terms of following your favorite players in North America and it will not break the bank if you have no iTunes credits. Consider that a major plus because I hate paying for software!

Shnarped Hockey automatically inserts the ten most-followed players into the app for you, but you can literally search for any player signed in North American professional hockey to track. As seen in this photo, Eric Condra, Mike Moore, and Kyle Hagel (of all people) are being tracked despite them not being signed as a full-time NHL player. As I said, any player in North America can be tracked so you can follow any and all of your favorite players regardless of where he is playing as long as he is signed to a professional North American hockey team.

I tried searching a few players not in the NHL or AHL, and I got results. For example, I searched for Jarrett Konkle, a player who suited up for the Fresno Falcons for a couple of seasons, and it returned his info from the CHL's Rapid City Rush! I was able to check boxscores for Konkle, see his picture, and get his vital stats such as birthdate, height, and weight.

Konkle's profile, though, had a few issues. Unlike Eric Condra, Konkle's career stats were blank despite his continued play for various minor pro teams. His height was listed as 5'12" which would more accurately be written as 6'0". These errors, however, are aesthetic, and can certainly be fixed very quickly with some tweaking of the code.

As far as I can tell, players from the NHL, AHL, ECHL, and CHL are included. A search for Pensacola Ice Flyers' goaltender Steve Christie returned no results, so leagues below the CHL aren't quite "professional" enough for the app. But if that's a drawback, that's also a minor quibble.

Perhaps the greatest feature that Shnarped Hockey brings to fans is the Twitter feed for each and every player featured in the app who has a Twitter account. No longer do you have to search and figure out which Twitter feed is the verified player on Twitter. Instead, Shnarped Hockey does the work for you, and you get instant access to the players' feeds you want to read. Honestly, Paul Bissonnette is anticipating you following him now. All kidding aside, this is an excellent way to keep up with your favorite players in real-time as they tweet out new thoughts throughout the day!

The "Stall" portion on the Shnarped Hockey app is probably going to be the most under-utilized portion of the app for a while, but it holds what seems like great potential. The "Stall" allows the player you're tracking to display his favorites in a number of categories - books, movies, and charities to name but a few. It could be a great place of discovery if players fill out their info!

The "Wall" tab on Shnarped Hockey is exactly like Facebook where you can post a message to the player you're tracking. I found this section under-utilized at this point as well, but the fact that you can fist-bump a player via this app is worth the under-utilized "Wall" feature.

Overall, I have to admit that I found myself drawn to searching out players and seeing what they were up to in terms of their careers and Twitter feeds. I spent a good hour on tracking players and getting caught up on their whereabouts and information, and I can see this app becoming very useful in keeping tabs on the players one wants to follow.

Because of the price of the app, the features, and the urge to track and follow players with relative ease, I have to give Shnarped Hockey two thumbs-up. If you're looking for a great hockey app, this one will rank near the top! Well done, Kyle and Dustin, on producing a quality application for the iPhone! If you want to speak to the creators directly, you can send them a message via their Twitter handle "@shnarped". Get downloading, and enjoy the app!

MO' BRO: The Mo' Bro All-Star squad has seen Mike Gartner, Wendel Clark, Dirk Graham, and Grant Fuhr nominated as four of the best moustachioed men to play in the NHL. Today, we get a man whose moustache defined him as much as his play on the ice did.

Dennis Maruk's incredible Fu Manchu was instantly recognizable when he was on the ice. Maruk started with the California Golden Seals where he scored 30 goals and 68 assists in an otherwise miserable season. From the Seals, Maruk moved with the team to Cleveland to play as a Baron for a couple of seasons where he scored 78 and 71 points, respectively. He spent a mere two games with the North Stars after the Barons merged with the Stars before ending up in Washington where his play matched his incredible facial growth. In 1981-82, Maruk scored 60 goals and 136 points for one of the worst teams in the NHL as he became the first Capital to break the 100-point barrier! And Maruk and his Fu Manchu would return to Minnesota where he finished his NHL career. Overall, Maruk scored 356 goals and 878 points in 888 NHL games - incredible totals for playing on some horrible teams!

Honestly, though, Maruk's moustache is one of the greatest to have appeared in the NHL, and the evolution of it is something quite impressive. While I'm attempting to grow a nasty Fu Manchu much like Maruk's, I doubt it will even be close to the moustache sported by Dennis "Pee Wee" Maruk. If you want to get in on the action, head over to the Movember page and get registered so your 'stache can stand amongst these great 'staches!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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