At the age of about seven or eight, Ian Bell served as the target in front of his friend’s house, donning heavy 1960s-era leather hockey pads that belonged to his friend’s uncle who played junior hockey in Quebec. Bell and his friends played all day every day that first summer that he discovered the game of hockey.
Years later, Bell (now a well-traveled goalie) and some other hockey players found themselves in an unfortunate situation. They struggled to get enough players out to an ice time at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Players were not paying, the main organizer was losing money, and so when no one stepped up to organize and manage the ice time, which they had held for 25 years, they lost it.
Then, during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Bell met ex-NHLer Bret Hedican when he gave him a ride to a skate with technology industry CEOs and professional hockey players in North Vancouver. Hedican played 17 seasons in the NHL, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994 with the Vancouver Canucks and a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. Having recently retired at the time of the skate in 2010, Hedican was still looking for something to do next when he met Bell. This is where Rosterbot comes in.
Created by Bell and Hedican, Rosterbot is an app that, as Bell puts it, was “created to make management of teams really, really simple, and in particular it was made to create a huge amount of automation in the process involved with managing teams.”
The app organizes player RSVPing, invites spares, sends notification emails, syncs with calendars, assists with payments and bookkeeping, and can be used to organize events. While the idea for the app stemmed from Bell and Hedican’s experiences as hockey players, the app is very versatile, and is currently used for over 350 types of sports and activities, from hockey, basketball and soccer to World of Warcraft and paintball.
“You really can’t anticipate what the utility of something like this will be,” Bell said about the vast range of activities that Rosterbot can support. “It’s kind of gratifying.”
One of the most unique aspects of the app is the fact that it is fully automated, and is meant to make the job of team managers as simple and easy as possible.
“That’s the big point of difference between us and basically everybody else is you can set how you want Rosterbot to behave and it makes all the decisions during the course of the preparation for the event. It’s fully automated, so it really is meant to [let users] kick back on the couch and let Rosterbot organize your team for you.”
As a unique and versatile team management app, it carries with it many implications for the impact it can have on the organization of sports and activities.
“I hope it’s an enabler,” said Bell. “And by that I mean I hope that someone who wouldn’t consider organizing a team would actually say, ‘hey, now this is a whole easier, maybe I can.’ And you know as a result, more of us end up playing hockey or soccer or baseball.”
The app has the potential to make the coach’s job easier as well. Hedican coaches his kids, and Bell said that for Hedican, “it allows him as the coach to take all that time that a coach used to spend organizing teams and scheduling and doing all that stuff, and spend that more on player development and actually teaching kids how to play and helping them develop as players and athletes and individuals … letting coaches be coaches, not sheep herders.”
The app, which Bell and Hedican recently pitched to investors on an episode of CBC’s Dragons’ Den (see here: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/rosterbot), is available for download for free on the iTunes app store and the Google Play store. More information can be found at rosterbot.com.