Like many of his Portland Pirates teammates, Kyle Hagel has a Twitter account, an Instagram account and a Facebook page.
However, his favorite social media site is Shnarped, and not just because he’s a co-founder.
What’s that? Haven’t heard of it?
Well, if you’re a hockey player or a hockey fan, it’s almost a must-have.
Shnarped Hockey, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, started out as a web-based platform (and can be found at www.shnarped.com), but is now available as a free mobile app. And it’s very popular.
According to Dustin Sproat, a former teammate of Hagel’s at Princeton University and also a co-founder of Shnarped, the mobile app had 50,000 downloads in the weeks following an appearance on the Canadian television show “Dragons’ Den,” where entrepreneurs pitch their products to some of Canada’s savviest business leaders.
Shnarped allows fans and players to find all the hockey news, results and highlights they want in one place, while also allowing them to connect with each other and send pounds – a virtual fist bump.
“It’s a virtual handshake for a job well done,” said Hagel, who was named the Pirates Man of the Year for his community work in Portland and the Lewiston/Auburn area. “Fans have taken to it like wildfire. They really enjoy it.”
Sproat said the idea for Shnarped started in 2011. During some charity work, Sproat noticed that it was often difficult to get the message out to everyone involved.
“There were like five platforms we were using to keep in touch – email, text messages, Facebook, phone,” he said. “And then we saw that the fans we were helping were reaching out to us, saying nice things on Twitter and Facebook.
“So we tried to come up with an idea where they could connect players and fans to one another in one place.”
Shnarped combines the best features of other websites, including a news feed and a place to make comments. You can choose teams or players to follow. You can get the latest hockey news or statistics (from eight leagues). You want to watch hockey fights? You can do that here. You can send messages to players, or fist bumps to congratulate them for something they did.
Sproat said they actually tested a couple versions before talking to professional players to determine the best format. “This is what we came up with,” he said. “I think it puts the fans on the end of the bench.’’
Players like it, said Pirates forward Andy Miele, because it’s a good way to keep track of former teammates. “It’s easier than going through three different websites,” he said.
But this is very fan-friendly.
Hagel, who played 38 games for the Pirates this year with five assists and 162 penalty minutes, said he restricts his use of Twitter (“It gets negative at times, almost annoying in certain ways,” he said) and Facebook (“Fans ‘friend’ me on Facebook all the time but I don’t accept. There’s pictures of my family on there and that’s personal,” he said), but not Shnarped.
“On Shnarped, it’s like they’re acknowledging something I did and showing a sign of respect,” he said. “I’m more inclined to answer.”
He can do so by offering a fist bump. The fist bump will show up on your phone, or whatever mobile device you’re using.
“It’s almost like you’re getting a text message from a pro hockey player,” said Hagel. “Fans don’t really expect to receive anything from players. To get anything, say from a guy who’s playing in the NHL, is a really cool experience.
“It’s almost, for some fans, like a modern-day autograph.”
The best part is, you can save the fist bumps.
“Basically, we do our best to make it easy for the guys to connect to the good, loyal fans,” said Sproat, adding that he has received positive responses from all age groups. “Kids love it. Anything they get from these celebrity guys is cool. And older people like that it connects them to the players.”
Sproat said he felt Shnarped could be successful. Now he’d like to expand it.
“We’ve got a lot bigger aspirations for where we want it to be,” he said. “We set out knowing we had something, that a lot of people believed in us. I think we’ve got something that can be really big. We believe in the concept and that it is a better way for athletes of all kinds to engage the fans they care about.”
He would love to expand it to other sports.
“The value that a team in the NHL gets is essentially the same value a team in the NFL would get,” he said. “It’s a way to engage the fan base, something the players are willing to do.”
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: