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Sun Ices Exclusive Deal With NHL

After a couple days of promise, Sun Microsystems Inc. Wednesday unveiled a major collaboration with The National Hockey League in which it will officially become the sole technology partner of the professional league and NHL Players' Association.

Though financial terms were not disclosed, the technology and marketing agreement blankets all areas of the NHL's business, including the league's Web site NHL.com, which culls more than 8 million viewers per month.

Sun, which just Tuesday announced that it is the "Official Official Unix Server Supplier" for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, hopes to help the league propel exposure via the delivery of real-time game data and scores to wireless devices and interactive TV users.

In a live conference call from New York City, Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were quite chummy and cracked jokes.

While Bettman called the deal a marriage of content between the NHL and the "world-class hardware, software and services that Sun provides," McNealy extolled the virtues of hockey, and by extension, the NHL.

"The NHL is an unbelievable content operation," McNealy said. "And hockey is pretty exciting when you compare how many minutes of action there is in it to other sports. I counted 12 minutes of action in a baseball game, other than scratching or spitting. And football? I count maybe 15 minutes of action in a football game, unless you count when they're huddled over. In hockey, there is some 55 out of 60 minutes of action, plus 10 minutes of fighting after the whistle."

McNealy also predicted that the public will see a lot more smart cards from Sun being used along with increased usage of Internet-capable phones such as the iMode. He predicted that more people will use such phones to view full-motion video content. The CEO said Sun's relationship with ahtletic organizations and events extends back to 1994, when his firm supplied some 1,000-plus servers for the World Cup.

Sun will build the NHL a platform powered by the iPlanet Portal Server to aggregate content and present information in a personalized and customizable interface. Sun will also help the NHL rewrite its Real Time Scoring System (RTSS) using Java, which will provide real-time game data for other applications such as alerts, fantasy leagues, games and in-arena kiosks. With this, a user will be able to receive real-time scoring updates via wireless devices.

Sun will also provide the league with its Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) software portfolio for services on demand, specifically the Solaris 8 Operating Environment, the iPlanet Portal Server, iPlanet Portal Server: Mobile Access Pack, iPlanet Application Server, iPlanet Web Server, iPlanet Directory Server, and iPlanet Messaging Server. The implementation is planned on a wide range of Sun's hardware and storage systems, including Sun Fire 4800, Sun Fire V880, and Sun Fire 280R servers, Sun Ray 150 thin clients, Sun StorEdge storage products and Java Card APIs.

In addition to powering NHL.com, the play will also help the NHL's other business aspects, such as dispersing contract information, transactions, scheduling, waivers, scouting reports and statistics -- all online.

Sun will also gain exclusive marketing rights to League premier events such as NHL All-Star Weekend and the NHL Entry Draft, as well as "a substantial media presence" with the League's broadcast partners.