As it has done with the National Football League, MBNA Corp. has made an agreement with the National Hockey League allowing it to issue MasterCards on behalf of each of the league's teams.

There are 26 NHL teams. Seven are in Canada, where Delaware-based MBNA does not issues cards - though a company spokesman said it is considering taking that step.

The affinity cards bearing the NHL and team logos come with no annual fee and an introductory rate of 6.9% for cash advances and purchases. After six months, MBNA plans to bump the interest rate to prime plus 9.9%, but will reward hockey fans by charging season ticket holders prime plus 7.9%.

Cardholders will get periodic statement inserts for NHL team merchandise and ticket packages. Customers can also qualify to win prizes such as NHL logo merchandise and tickets to All-Star games and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

MBNA said sports marketing is one of its fastest-growing areas. The company, which built its business around the affinity marketing concept, has relationships with more than 350 professional and participant sports organizations. It covers a long list of sports - including golf, tennis, figure skating, bowling, softball, and lacrosse.

MBNA's bank issues cards for the NFL, Nascar and Indy car racing, 18 major league baseball teams, 10 National Basketball Association franchises, the National Hot Rod Association, ESPN, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the men's pro tennis tour.

With $25.2 billion in managed loans, MBNA America Bank is the country's second-largest bank card issuer.

Last week's announcement that MBNA has entered a multiyear marketing arrangement with the NHL follows the December sponsorship deal the league made with MasterCard International.

MasterCard will be the NHL's official card for four years. Advertising Age estimated the sponsorship cost the Purchase, N.Y.-based association $12 million.

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