The Washington Times - September 15, 2012, 08:51PM

It came with no announcement whatsoever. No ball dropped from Times Square because this was nothing of a celebration.

As Saturday night turned into the wee hours of Sunday morning, it just happened: The NHL lockout began. No new collective bargaining agreement and no hockey for now.

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It is the third work stoppage of commissioner Gary Bettman’s tenure and the second in eight years.

Owners want to cut player costs, while the NHLPA doesn’t want to lose like it did during the 2004-05 lockout.

“It’s not like this has just come upon us. We’ve been talking about a new CBA. We’ve had CBA prep meetings as far back as two years ago, so the players are prepared. Last time, we thought we got the raw end of the deal,” Washington Capitals player rep Brooks Laich said Friday. “We have to fight this time. At some point, you have to dig your heels in and fight. If we don’t this time, then next time, what happens next?

“Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive, and the players really understand that and we believe in our cause and our leadership and I believe we are more unified this time and ready for a fight.”

There’s no way of knowing how this “fight” will change in the coming days and weeks now that players are locked out. They won’t be getting paychecks starting in mid-October, and they cannot access team facilities.

Owners will start feeling the heat as preseason games and then regular-season games are canceled.

The NHL issued the following statement to its fans Sunday:

“Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.

Thanks to the conditions fostered by seven seasons under the previous CBA, competitive balance has created arguably the most meaningful regular season in pro sports; a different team has won the Stanley Cup every year; fans and sponsors have agreed the game is at its best, and the League has generated remarkable growth and momentum. While our last CBA negotiation resulted in a seismic change in the League’s economic system, and produced corresponding on-ice benefits, our current negotiation is focused on a fairer and more sustainable division of revenues with the Players — as well as other necessary adjustments consistent with the objectives of the economic system we developed jointly with the NHL Players’ Association seven years ago. Those adjustments are attainable through sensible, focused negotiation — not through rhetoric.

This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.”

Here’s the NHLPA’s message: