A detailed article on www.eahockey.com (which is not an official EA web site) describes a licensing tangle involving EA, the NHL, the NHL Players' Association, and Take-Two Interactive. Shortly before the end of last season's lockout, the NHLPA entered into an exclusive licence with EA, meaning that starting in 2006, EA would have exclusive rights to use NHL player names in its games. The article says that the agreement involved EA paying the NHLPA $44.2 million over six years.
However, the NHL was not pleased with this arrangement "? it prefers not to have exclusive licences, was not happy that the NHLPA would receive the majority of the income from the EA licence. The article states that the NHL said that it would not extend EA's existing licence with the NHL (i.e., which lets EA use team trade-marks, etc.) unless Take-Two Interactive (which publishes the NHL 2K series) also receives a licence from the NHLPA.
Apparently this threat brought all the parties back to the table, and the NHL has said that it is close to announcing licence deals with both EA and Take-Two.
EA and Take-Two have clashed over professional sports licences before "? last year EA signed an exclusive deal with the NFL, and Take-Two fought back with its own exclusive MLB agreement. If things pan out as the article suggests, however, it looks like the companies will be sharing the next NHL licence.