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NHL and NBC extending contract through 2010-11 season

BOSTON - The NHL and NBC have agreed to a two-year extension of their television contract that will keep the league on the network from the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park through the end of the 2010-11 season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement on Wednesday at the home of the Boston Red Sox, where the Bruins will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the annual outdoor game that has become a New Year's Day tradition since it started in 2008.

Bettman said the deal was "basically" the same as the previous agreement, which started in January 2006 and called for the league and the network to share revenue. NBC spokesman Brian Walker said the network would broadcast nine regular season games, weekend games during the playoffs and up to five games of the Stanley Cup finals.

"We are both very happy with the relationship we have," Bettman said. "We're delighted with the coverage NBC has given us, and we know that NBC is happy to have us in their stable of sports properties."

NBC reached several milestones under the agreement: Last winter's outdoor game at Wrigley Field was the most-watched regular-season NHL game in 34 years, and Game 7 of this year's Stanley Cup finals was the most-watched game overall in 36 years. NBC Sports also received a Sports Emmy for its promotion of the 2009 Winter Classic.

"We're thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with the NHL and build on all the positive momentum on and off the ice," NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said. "Together, we have attained viewership milestones not seen in more than three decades. And the Winter Classic, in just two years, has become one of the highlights of the sports calendar."

The league and the network first reached an agreement on a rights deal, in which NBC would pay no fees for the broadcasting rights but instead share advertising revenues, in 2004 - just in time for the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season. It was eventually launched in January 2006 and extended in '07 and '08.

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