Instead of playing for the Washington Capitals, Alexander Ovechkin is skating for a team based in Russia. The Caps and other NHL teams have locked out their players. (Alexei Bezzubov/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I know the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing and football fans are worried about the Redskins and their star quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

But it’s hockey season. Time to “Rock the Red.” Time to chant: “Let’s go Caps! Let’s go . . . .

Whoops, not so fast.

Although the Washington Capitals’ season opener had been scheduled for Friday night, the Caps will not be on the ice. The National Hockey League has locked out its players (that means they can’t practice or play games) because of a disagreement over how much money the owners will pay the players as well as other issues. The NHL has canceled games for at least the first two weeks of the season.

You may have noticed that professional sports have lots of strikes and lockouts. In a strike, players refuse to play the games. In a lockout, the owners won’t let them play.

Recently, the referees in the National Football League went out on strike. The NFL hired replacement referees. That didn’t work very well. The new refs made too many bad calls. Now, the regular referees are back.

In 2011, the National Basketball
Association owners locked out its players. The NBA played a shortened regular season of 66 games instead of 82.

The lockouts and strikes are usually about the same thing: money. Professional sports leagues and teams make a lot of money from selling tickets to the games and selling the rights to show those games on television. The teams also make money from selling team hats, jerseys and lots of stuff with team logos. The owners want to keep most of this money. The players want a bigger share of it.

But there are lots of costs that go along with owning a sports team. In addition to paying the players, the owners have to pay everyone who works in the stadium or arena.

All of this adds up to millions of dollars, and the owners and players have to agree on how to divide it up. That agreement is called a contract. The teams and the players have to agree on a contract before they can play the games.

So professional hockey isn’t being played in North America, but there are pro hockey leagues in Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic as well as other places around the world.

More than 100 NHL players have signed to play on teams in other countries. The Caps’ star winger, Alexander Ovechkin, has signed to play for the Moscow Dynamo in the Russian league.

Lots of NHL players — more than 20 percent of them — are from countries other than Canada and the United States. So when foreign players such as Ovechkin (who is Russian) sign to play with another team in the mean time, they are not just leaving the Caps or the NHL. They are going home.

If the NHL and the players do not agree on a contract soon, those players may decide to stay home.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 18 sports books for kids. His latest book is “Go for the Goal!