The official Penguins App, complete with the Yinz Cam for in-arena use, enhances the fan's overall hockey experience
What can I say? I'm an app addict. Prior to purchasing a Samsung Captivate last month I previously loaded my apps onto my iPod touch and was limited to wherever free wireless was available. Now with a nifty data plan and touch-screen phone, I not only went from 2002 to 2010 on the spot, but I also only further fed my addiction to smart phone apps.
I went a little overboard the other day and decided to test out a ton of the NHL team apps. For your reading pleasure, I've provided a little feedback on each available one (in order of most favorite to least) and would like to hear what you guys have to say as well, should you have them loaded up too.
I'm confident I nailed down each team's free app, but if you think I missed one in the post then by all means share away. As you'll see after the jump, some teams required me to flip back and forth between the iPod and Droid based solely on which platforms carried which apps.
On a league-wide scale, the NHL Gamecenter App is solid. You can set it up for live score updates (complete with an actual siren sound for your team of choice), check out an abbreviated player bio for every guy in the league and even see interesting tid bits like how many times Sid scored a hat trick in his career and what type of shot slipped past the goaltender this season (three slap shots, two wristers and one backhand so far).
The basis app is free and there is a video highlight option available for $19.99. This allows you to see each of the goals that are listed by player, so it's definitely a big feature. For $80 you can watch live games, but I'm pretty cheap and haven't sprung for either of those additions.
I'd like to note that a majority of these apps were accessed through my iPod Touch. I noticed only a select few were available on both the ipod/iphone AND the Android Market, so I had to mix and match some devices. For example, Toronto was not available for the Droid but was for the iPod. Vice versa with Detroit. And then there was Anaheim, the only team I found an app for that I was unable to test on either device. It requires iPhone 4.0 (which I don't have on the touch) and wasn't available on the Droid. Maybe it's still in the works though. Can't tell for sure.
Now, for the teams. Note: These are apps hailed as the "official" team apps. Free ones I might add. Don't get suckered into paying for any of those news aggregator apps. And maybe after this post you won't be suckered into downloading some of the free ones too.
If you asked me to pick one team that stands out as the league's premier mobile app, I'd have to call a tie between the Washington Capitals and the Penguins. While the Yinz Cam is a great feature for the Pens, I feel like the Capitals' app packs a ton of easy-to-browse options into the whole thing. I became an instant fan of the media section, primarily for the podcast feature the team runs before and after games and intermittently throughout the week. I hooked this up through my car's audio jack the other day and pretended that the radio was all hockey, all the time. (A guy can dream, right?) In addition to the podcasts, this app has your typical news feed, schedule, roster info and ticket options right there on the main screen. The only thing that's missing is video.
Which brings me to the Pens' app. The best feature for the Pens is the video seciton, but it lacks in the podcast/audio portion that I liked so much from the Caps. The video library is extensive too, as it's not just limited to the most recent game-related stuff. I'd say at a quick glance there's about 25-30 videos at the ready. This, I learned, is how you kill a phone battery while sitting in rush-hour traffic. News, stats and a sched make up for the remainder of the app, which similar to the Caps also possesses a Twitter feature. Washington took that one step further with Facebook and Flickr as well.
Basically where one lacks the other flourishes, which is why I found it so hard to pick just one as the best mobile hockey app out there. Consider it the hockey app arms race: whichever one fills out the app first with all of the multimedia fanfare will raise the bar for all teams in the league.
Vancouver's app has a nice static toolbar across the bottom that allows you to switch between sections without having to hit a back button. This is beyond convenient. The video section is also ripe with content, the schedule is interactive to the point where it shows time, date and TV networks but I'm not seeing a box score or game summary option anywhere. Sure, it shows the score of the last game, but a full stat sheet from each game would be a nice addition. To the app's credit, it does have standings and stats available in its "more" section, but game-by-game content is limited. The final thing that stands out is access to the team's official message boards. I know a lot of Internet 2.0 people opt to comment on a blog or facebook page these days, but if I'm a fan who regularly comments on the team's boards than I'm loving this part.
All video is done by Maple Leafs TV and therefore in abundance and regularly updated. The news section has site updates (Colby Armstrong out with injured finger), in addition to blogs that may feature a player or two that is playing with the Marlies or somewhere else in the system. The scores tab is good, complete with full box scores, a summary, stats and recap. The standings page is good for conference and division, which while universal in practically every app, it's still a nice feature to have.
The Blackhawks app is your basic all-in-one source for video, news and stats. The one thing this one includes that wasn't on any of the other teams' mobile apps is an option to select a bar in or around the Chicago area to watch the game. I thought this was a pretty unique idea and one that every other team should consider adopting as well. It not only has the list, but you can select the one you want, see where it is on a map and click the "call now" button to dial right in. Me likey.
The Thrashers TV section isn't unlike any other team's video section, although not quite as extensive as the Pens, Canucks or Leafs. The team tab includes a great feature that should be on every mobile app: franchise history. The only downside to this is that it opens up in a separate browser, causing the app to close, crash or freeze your device (this happened twice). But hey, at least the idea is nice. There's also a little section for the minor league affiliates, although it's really just a brief description of each one (Chicago Wolves, Gwinnett Gladiators). The most annoying part about the app comes in the very first screen after the load. Unless you say yes, the app will prompt you to join the team's e-mail list. There is an option to skip it, but it's still a bit unnecessary. One of the best features is the fan interaction section. In addition to the Thrashers' Twitter and Facebook feeds, you can also text the scoreboard, send your photo to the big screen, play Thrashers trivia and (my favorite) fire off an air horn, soccer rattle or vuvuzela.
Nothing special really. It has an option to scroll through the schedule and view past and future games but it doesn't provide box scores for any of them. The stats page is sorted by points and not interactive at all. The "more" option shows the team's Twitter, Facebook page and YouTube channel but the blog requires you to open up a browser and, in turn, exit the app. Not my favorite, as it's pretty limited in its scope.
The schedule/results page is a sore spot on this one. Want to know the score of Wednesday's game against the Capitals? Hey, take a guess. All it shows as a result is either a giant 'W' or a giant 'L,' nothing more. Kind of disappointing. The video section hasn't been updated since April, the player stats are sortable only by each player. So if you want to know who leads the team in goals you'll have to go through each one by one. Not a huge fan.
The schedule page is pretty weak, in that you can only view the upcoming games and not the results of previous ones. Odds are this is just a self-defense mechanism, seeing as how the Rangers themselves don't want to even look at the outcomes of previous games either. /joking Video section also hasn't been updated since April, and there's only three videos to choose from. Photos are recent at least.