by Casey Ticsay:

The National Hockey League (NHL) is undergoing a fourth lockout based on disagreements between players and owners, affecting many teams throughout the country such as the Los Angeles Kings.

Around midnight on Wednesday, September 15, 2012, a collective bargaining agreement between the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the NHL expired which resulted in a handful of past disputes and judgments steaming up once more.

Several meetings, both formal and informal, between NHL Commissioner Bary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr have taken place in expectations to resolve the issue involving player salaries and club revenues.

Team owners aim to reduce player salaries from 57% to about 46% and desire player contracts that are limited to five of six years without union concessions. In addition to these ambitions, the NHL has eliminated all preseason exhibition games which pushes the 2012-2013 season farther away.

NHL athletes refuse to give in and consequently many turn to Europe as a refuge. Although salaries are much less in other countries as well as leagues, many players have signed with European teams in order to continue playing the game they are devoted to.

Stanley Cup champion Anze Kopitar, 25, of the Los Angeles Kings made his way to Sweden to play in the HockeyAllsvenskan league on a second-tier team called Mora IK, alongside his younger brother Gasper.

Unlike Kopitar, LA Kings Captain Dustin Brown, who had several offers from European leagues, and forward Mike Richards and defenseman Matt Greene refuse to sail overseas to play in new leagues and decide to take part in  NHLPA meetings in hopes that the lockout will turn around.

With valuable players overseas and preseason games cancelled, players raise the question whether or not the popularity of the history-making Stanley Cup Champions will deteriorate.

“With the possibility of no hockey, we won’t be able to capitalize on the momentum we’ve built up the last couple of years,” Brown explained to ESPN.

Despite the doubts many may possibly have, others believe the lockout will give the Kings an advantage when it comes to preparation and recreation. During the overwhelming and thrilling 2011-2012 season, record-breaking goalie Jonathan Quick suffered a back injury, while left-wing Simon Gagne recovered from a past concussion; an extension to the break would give valuables players, as well as the team as a whole, more time to get mentally and physically set.

“The added rest gained from a lockout could allow them to play with the level of toughness and physicality that is crucial to their successes,” stated NHL and Boston Bruins featured columnist Nicholas Goss. “They might not be as affected as they would be during a regular 82-game season.”

It is unknown how long this lockout may be, but neither side has shown any sign of compromise.

“I think the fans deserve better and deserve hockey … on the ice,” stated Kings forward Kevin Westgarth.

Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Kings, along with many other NHL teams, hope to begin the year with confidence and willpower.