The Washington Times - April 19, 2011, 09:35AM

For everyone who wants to flip on ESPN and see the National Hockey League, it won’t be happening anytime soon - save for highlights.The NHL announced a 10-year TV deal with NBC/Versus on Tuesday that’s reportedly worth a total of $2 billion.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said in an announcement that the NHL and NBC/Versus are “staying in business together” for at least the next 10 years.

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In the immediate future, all playoff games will air nationally - beginning Saturday. So the network isn’t waiting around for the new deal to kick in, showing Lightning-Penguins at noon to lead into NBC’s broadcast of Caps-Rangers.

NBC’s Dick Ebersol said Versus will be renamed within the next 90 days. It will have NBC in its new name.

The new deal starts NBC’s national NHL coverage in November instead of January, beginning with a new Black Friday game. In previous years, the Winter Classic kicked off the network coverage.

It’s not surprising that the NHL is returning the NBC/Versus, especially given that the networks - made more powerful by the Comcast-NBC merger - had the right to match any bid made by ESPN or Turner.

Flyers owner Ed Snider, an influential member of the NHL’s board of governors, is a Comcast executive and as recently as a couple months ago reportedly was blocking any possibility of the league leaving NBC/Versus.

John Ourland of Sports Business Journal was the first to report the deal.