Disgruntled employee hijacks AHL hockey app to settle an office score

Several "unauthorized" push notifications were sent through the AHL smartphone app on July 10, 2019. Via @originalahmego and @justpastmidlife/Twitter

A disgruntled software developer says he accidentally hijacked an NHL-affiliated smartphone app to send angry push notifications to his former boss on Wednesday, sparking confusion and amusement among many hockey fans who also received the alerts.

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The workplace drama spilled into the public sphere on Wednesday morning as a series of notifications sent over the American Hockey League (AHL) smartphone app. (The AHL is a development league for the NHL with franchises across North America.)

“Stewart Zimmel threatened to punch Ian Bowman in the throat,” one of the AHL push messages says.

These messages were sent as push notifications through the AHL smartphone app on July 10, 2019. Sean Shaprio/Twitter
“Stewart Zimmel,” says another error-filled message. “Since I have no way to contact you are [sic] you owe me nearly $6,000 I would ask you to contact me about payment.”
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The message-sender goes on to say that he will file a workplace report against Zimmel for threatening him with a throat punch.

These messages were sent as push notifications through the AHL smartphone app on July 10, 2019. Sean Shapiro/Twitter

“Stewart Zimmel please pay the outstanding monies owed,” another message said.

Canadian software developer Ian Bowman says he sent the messages in an attempt to reach his former boss, Zimmel, the chief operating officer at Waterloo, Ont.-based HockeyTech. The firm develops a wide range of hockey-related tech products, including the AHL’s smartphone app.

Bowman says he resigned from a contract position at the firm on July 2, but was still owed money for his work. He says he was suddenly shut out from his work email and the company’s private messaging system a few days later, leaving him with no way to contact Zimmel about his payment.

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However, Bowman designed the company’s messaging system, so he used an old backdoor trick to try to reach Zimmel directly.

“My last resort was using an old test system I had developed and sending a message to my person and his devices only,” Bowman told Global News via LinkedIn. “The code has since changed and… it did not go to test devices, it went to all.”

Bowman says he didn’t realize he was sending out push notifications over the AHL app until approximately 30 minutes later, when friends sent him screenshots of his messages.

The push notifications caused a stir among users of the AHL app.

“Hold my calls,” one woman tweeted. “I am dedicating my day to the AHL app debacle.”

The AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, who are affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, joined in on the fun.

“We’re very anti-throat punch over here, so we’re willing to host a car wash to help raise this $6,000,” the team tweeted.

The AHL later apologized for the “unauthorized” messages in a separate push notification, and attributed the unusual drama on the app developer.

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HockeyTech did not respond to a Global News request for comment by press time.

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However, Bowman says he’s spoken to the company’s HR department and they’re sorting out his payment.

He added that the “throat punch” threats in his messages were not related to his resignation. Bowman says he worked with Zimmel for nearly five years, and Zimmel would occasionally use such threats as motivation.

“Stewart can be a wonderful person to work with, but there were times where he used tactics that did not impress me,” Bowman said. “A better approach might have even been, ‘If you fail, you’re fired.'”

He added that the would like to “apologize for the message going public.”


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