04/03/2014 07:00 EDT | Updated 06/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Shnarped Hockey makes second appearance on Dragons' Den TV show

VANCOUVER - Dustin Sproat had a hard time selling the merits of his social media app to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but NHL prospects can't seem to get enough of it.

Sproat, a co-founder of Vancouver-based Shnarped Hockey, made a second appearance Wednesday night on the CBC TV show "Dragons' Den" as part of a follow-up to an initial in-studio appearance in Toronto last October with co-founder and former minor-league and Princeton teammate Kyle Hagel.

This time, the cameras followed Sproat in Los Angeles as Kevin O'Leary, one of the Dragons, took him to meet Cuban in a bid to expand Shnarped to the NBA. But Cuban turned thumbs down to the idea instead of giving it a fist bump — which is what the app is based on.

"It would be more of a feature than a business, in my opinion, because at this point in time, (NBA) teams already have their apps," Cuban said on the show, adding a proposed $50,000-per-team annual licensing fee to use Shnarped software "ain't gonna happen in the NBA."

The segment concluded with a smiling Cuban advising O'Leary to "take (Shnarped) out behind the barn and shoot it."

Sproat, who is still trying to expand Shnarped to other sports, notably football, said it's unfortunate the segment ended the way it did, because Cuban had nicer things to say off camera.

But NHL prospects, especially junior-aged players, have taken a decidedly different view on the original hockey version of Shnarped. It has soared in popularity since Sproat, a retired minor-leaguer and Hagel, a defenceman with the AHL's Portland Pirates, last appeared on Dragons' Den.

Approximately 1,000 junior and college-aged players are now using the platform which is named after a card game that hockey players often play while riding the bus on a road trip, and enables fans to send online fist bumps (known as pounds) to players for a good goal or effort, send messages, track player statistics and view highlight videos.

As a result, Sproat and Hagel are targeting potential future NHLers as they attempt to expand Shnarped Hockey, which began as a mobile app and now also has a Web platform.

"It was kind of a lot of work to (open the app to junior and college players), but those guys are all young and hungry and social media-savvy," said Sproat.

The CHL, which includes the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, is providing stat feeds to Shnarped, while the NCAA is helping Sproat and Hagel's company connect with teams

Junior players on Shnarped include Edmonton Oil Kings winger Henrik Samuelsson (son of former NHLer Ulf), a 2012 first-round draft pick (27th overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes. Samuelsson learned of Shnarped while attending the Coyotes' training camp last fall with Hagel and then got many of his Oil Kings teammates to sign on.

"I think almost half the team is on it," said Samuelsson, 20. "Now, we're trying to get the other half on it."

Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar, a 2013 Ottawa Senators first-round pick (17th overall), who has played for Canada at the world junior tournament, likes the way Shnarped connects the hockey world, lets him track friends playing in other junior leagues and give something back to fans.

"Being part of the Canadian Hockey League, I have friends that play in the Ontario league and the Quebec league," said Lazar, 19. "It's neat seeing their personal little achievements and how their team is doing, because we are all connected in the sense that we are part of the Canadian Hockey League.

"We're kids, too. We love our technology."

WHL communications director Jeff Hubert said the stat feed that his league provides to Shnarped is similar to those that TV networks, websites and other media outlets receive.

Meanwhile, Shnarped's online interactions have increased more than 230 per cent since the original "Dragons' Den" feature. Sproat, Hagel and third co-founder Kamil Sikorski have raised $700,000 in financing, which includes investments from Boston Pizza baron Jim Treliving, who is also a Dragon, and other private investors along with a $350,000 loan from the Canada Media Fund.

"I think (Sproat and Hagel) have struck some gold with (Shnarped)," said Vancouver Canucks defenceman Ryan Stanton, among 130 NHLers using the app.

Stanton uses Shnarped to track the progress of his brother Ty, who plays for the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers. The Canuck thinks the plan to target junior and college players will pay off over the long term.

"They'll get on there and, eventually, they'll be the ones in the pros — the ones the fans are definitely looking at," said Stanton.

Sproat said Shnarped is trying to develop business partnerships with junior and college teams and hopes to partner with the CHL. WHL commissioner Ron Robison said the CHL is still reviewing whether it will partner with Shnarped.

Robison noted the junior leagues are cautious about getting involved with social media due to the ages of the predominantly teen players.

The wives of Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and goalie James Reimer were scorned on Twitter recently because of their spouses' perceived poor play. But Sproat said such abuse does not occur on Shnarped because "it's a place for real hockey fans" who send positive messages to players.

Calgary Flames tough guy Kevin Westgarth, 30, a former teammate of Sproat and Hagel at Princeton, said Shnarped is safer for hockey players than Twitter and other social media because it has less "white noise."

Westgarth said he received "almost universally positive" feedback on Shnarped after he was at the centre of a highly publicized line brawl in a game in Vancouver in January, but had to deal with "some negativity" on Twitter.

He predicted NHLers' use of Shnarped will "go up and up and up" as young players who are more adept and comfortable with mobile devices and social media enter the league.

New York Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot, a longtime friend of Hagel who was among Shnarped's first users, called the move to target juniors and collegiate players "a great idea."

"It gets everyone involved a little bit earlier, and you can follow guys coming up through the ranks as opposed to just when they make it (to the NHL)," said Talbot.

Lazar predicted that he and his junior hockey peers will continue to use the app for many years as they head to the NHL and elsewhere.

"It is hard to see (teammates) go," said Lazar. "But this way, you don't have to see them go (forever)."