Hartland Monahan put on a fancy display of stickhandling only to be turned back by a bevy of eager youngsters. Guy Charron picked up a stick and immediately tried to put a curve in it. Bernie Wolfe picked up his stick and banged it on the pavement in readiness.

The occasion was the Washington Capitals' second annual street-hockey clinic in the Capital Centre parking lot, and for 45 minutes it was standing room only as close to 1,500 youngsters exhibited their skills.

The quality of play on the 100 marked-off hockey courts ranged from excellent to nonexistent. But everybody picked up a stick and took a whack at the ball.

"The only problem is that sometimes the kids are too eager and aggressive and get their sticks up," one supervisor explained as she watched her 18 youngsters go at it.

Before the parking-lot action, the children, who ranged in age from six to 15, witnessed the "world championship" game between teams from District II and District III in Prince George's County.

Despite the presence of ringer Dallas McVie - son of Capital coach Tom McVie - on the District II team, District III pulled out a 4-2 victory for its second straight championship.

Then it was off to the parking lot and its 96-degree heat. There, with Monahan, Charron, Wolfe, Craig Patrick and Blair Stewart making the rounds, the youngsters banged away, pausing only to ask the Capitals for autographs.

"You like to see youngsters here enjoying hockey," Wolfe said. "Who knows, maybe one in 100 will go on and become a hockey player. It's good to see that interest in the game has increased in this area over the last few years."

Most of the kids raised their hands when asked if they had seen a Caps game and later probed it by chanting "Ber-nee. Ber-nee," when Wolfe picked up a stick.

When the games were over, everybody dashed inside the Centre to get out of the heat and watch an exhibition game between five Caps and a group of radio and TV personalities.

The kids cheered the Capitals and booed the media when they were introduced.

The celebrities won the game, 4-3, when all of the Caps except captain Monahan were thrown out of the game because they were winning.

When the media finaly scored the winning goal, Monahan was ducked in a basin of water as the "losing" captain. He even did it twice for the benefit of the TV cameras.

The kids said they had fun and organizer Lou Corletto kept thing moving. The Caps plan to enter the event in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest-ever street-hockey clinic.

The youngsters kept it all in perspective, however. "Did you have fun?" a young girl was asked as she left. "Oh, yeah, it was great, she answered. "Especially the chicken we had for lunch."