Business Innovation | MBA grad scores with new hockey app

Image of Dustin Sproat Outside

UBC MBA grad, Dustin Sproat’s professional hockey career may be over, but he’s still attracting NHL interest thanks to an app he created for hockey players and fans.

Sproat recently graduated  from the Robert H. Lee Graduate School. His transformation from hockey player to tech startup CEO stems from roots in professional and Ivy League hockey - which he played for more than a decade. And he’s had a lifelong interest in business.

During his 16-month MBA, Sproat created Shnarped, a social networking app that lets professional hockey players and fans connect with each other and track statistics across leagues. The name comes from a popular card game hockey players often play on road trips, popularized - according to hockey lore - by Vancouver Canucks legend Harold Snepsts.

“Hockey players have friends on teams and leagues around the world, and Shnarped helps them to connect,” says Sproat, who likens the app to an interactive hockey card complete with Twitter feeds, messaging platform, game trackers and live stat updates.

“And it gives fans a better way to follow and interact with their favorite hockey players.”

With more than 220 players from the NHL and its minor leagues on board—including Stanley Cup-winning goalie Jonathan Quick and Edmonton Oiler Sam Gagner—a new version of the app will launch in the Apple store this fall. Sproat is set to pitch the app on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, and he’s in talks with the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers to potentially tailor the platform to enhance the fan experience.

For Sproat, who attended Princeton on a hockey scholarship before playing three years in the minors and winning the ECHL championship with the Cincinnati Cyclones, the opportunity to fine-tune Shnarped with Sauder professors and classmates has been invaluable.

“I can’t say enough about the experience - everyone has been amazing and so generous with their time and ideas.”

In his spare time, Sproat helps run Hockey Players for Kids, a charity he co-founded to promote literacy.

“We share personal stories and give them a six-week reading challenge,” says Sproat, who received a chemical engineering degree from his Princeton days.

“The kids go nuts. They read an astounding number of books, and the winners get to play in a floor-hockey game with pros. The whole school shows up. It’s amazing.”

After graduation, the Red Deer, Alberta, native plans to stay in Vancouver, crediting its natural beauty and growing technology sector.

“I’ve learned a ton with my first start-up experience. With these new skills and the great resources available here, I feel Vancouver is a great place for me long-term.”