And how, Mr. Washington Capital hockey player, are you spending your summer vacation? In a variety of ways, but, typified by the original - Yvon Labre, the captain of the Caps - with keen anticipation of getting back onto the ice and into the thick of the NHL race.

"My first two years I wished the season had never started," said Labre, one of four men on the current roster who were on the team when it made its debut in 1974. "And when it did start I thought it would never end. But last year was different. Now I'm starting to go a little stir-crazy relaxing. I can't wait to get started. It hasn't been that way in the past."

As the first home player to score a goal in Capital Centre, the one with the most games played (218) as a Capital, the one with the most penalty minutes (497). Labre sums up perhaps better than anyone else the prevailing feeling on the team. He has spent much of the summer on his boat and on the golf course, but two months till shart of training begins to seem too long.

The Capitals finished last season with a 24-42-14 record, good for 62 points in the standings, compared to a two-year total of 53 points theretofore. What's more a newly revamped playoff qualification system bolsters the hope that did not exist those first two seasons.

"I think we were all ready to start over again the day after the season ended," defenseman jack Lynch said. "We kept building all year, kept getting better. We were tired but it was still kind of a letdown when it was over. It kind of gives you an early itch to get started again."

Most of the Caps say they are getting a little restless even though training camp does not open in Hershey, Pa., until Sept. 19.

All of them received coach Tommy McVie's off-season training program, tailored to each player individually, late in June and are working with that.

"I really don't think about hockey a lot or go out of my way to read about hockey at this time of year," said goalie Bernie Wolfe, one of five Caps spending the summer in the Washington area. "But hockey is always in the back of your mind. I mean, it's my profession.

"I hate to work out, I hate lifting weights, I hate running, but I do it. Hockey is my profession and I know I have to work at it."

The Caps are all aware how rigorous a training camp McVie runs. They must report at specified weights. They know if they are out of shape when they report they will regret it. None is more than a few pounds overweight. Wolfe is seven pounds underweight and hopes to put it back on by lifting weights.

"You just can't get a hockey player in shape in 21 days," McVie said. "They have to come to camp in good shape and then put the finishing touches on there. I don't think any of the players will show up out of shape."

McVie, who has spent some time at the Washington Redskins' training camp to watch George Allen in action, has not taken a vacation this summer and doesn't plan one.

"Well, I did spend two days with my family at Ocean City," he confessed. "It was nice, but it was enough. I don't think there is an offseason. It's a different season without games. I just keep my suitcase packed."

McVie spent April an May watching Canadian juniors in action, June and July talking with draft choices and putting some through a series of training tests at Ottowa University, and will spend August preparing for camp.

While a coach's work may be never done, the players have found time to relax. Guy Charron, the team's leading 1976-77 scorer: Hartland Monahan, Craig Patrick and Blair Stewart are in Washington along with Wolfe.

Charron, who stretched ligaments in his knee playing for Team Canada in Europe following the season, has been taking it easy and playing a lot of gold but started working out seriously last week.

Patrick has taken the opposite tack. "I've been working construction to keep in shape," he said. "My wife had a baby a couple of months ago so the money is nice but staying in shape is more important."

Patrick is a free agent, having joined the Caps in January, when the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Associaltion folded. He doesn't work to lose his hockey opportunity here, too.

Patrick is not the only Capital working this summer. Bill Riley, who in little more than half a season scored 27 NHL points, finished third on the team in penalty minutes and posted a plus-4 as one of two Caps not stuck with a minus rating, is working with his father in the landscaping and masonry business in Nova Scotia.

"I've been mixing a lot of the mortar, which is a good way to keep in shape," Riley said. "I feel like I'm ready to go right now. There isn't any ice out here, though."

Riley has also done a lot of fishing. One of his partners has been Bob Lemieux, not always one of Riley's closest friends. "He and I were sparring partners for a few years in the International League," Riley remembered. "We used to really go at it. But now he's coaching down there and I'm still playing. So we fish together. I guess the wars are over."

Many of the Caps enjoy the water whether it is to fish, water ski, swim or sail. None enjoys it more than Lynch.

Lynch lives right on the water a few miles outside Huntsville, Ontario. When he wants to go into town he doesn't take his car, he takes his boat - it's faster and more fun.

"It's just one of the nice things about living out here," he said. "I love city life and I love Washington but it's nice to get away from all the hustle and bustle during the summer. I think it's fun to just drive your boat down the river, do you shopping and drive back."

Lynch is among a number of the Capitals spending some of the summer working at a hockey school.

Gerry Meehan has gone back to school but hockey has nothing to do with it. Meehan is taking summer courses at Canisius College in pursuit of a degree in history or political science.

"I decided to try and get it done now before it was too late," said Meehan, who has about one year's worth of courses remaining to get his degree."I'm going to take some during the winter if I can."

Outdoors sports are very big among the players. Those summering here get together for golf on weekends, most like tennis and several are fishermen.

Ace Bailey won a golf tournament and caught an 800-pound tuna (with help) in the same week. Rick Green, whose broken right wrist has cut down on his activities greatly, has just about mastered tennis lefhanded. "I still can't hit the overheads with any coordination, but I've gotten pretty good," Green said.

Green, sidelined since February, added that he is gung-ho for camp to start so he can start proving again that the Caps were right in drafting him No. 1 a year ago.

"When you haven't been playing for a while it's hard to sit around," he said after being fitted for his seventh cast since the injury. "I want to find out that this thing is O.K. and get back to playing. It's been rough waiting."

But not everyone is dying to start McVie's two-a-day workouts.

"I haven't got the itch to go back yet," said Bryan Watson, the team's senior citizen at 35. "When it gets close to camp I'll be eager and I'll be ready, but right now I'm just relaxing and enjoying myself."

Watson hasn't had much time to relax because he has been on the road a lot. He spent some time in Mount Pleasant, Mich., organizing the Special Olympics, something he has been involved in for nine years.

Eager as the Capitals are to start their run at the 1977-78 playoffs, the prospect of first spending 21 days in training with McVie brings pause.

"Tommy's up at Carlisle with Allen?" Bailey said in mock horror when informed of his coach's whereabouts. "Oh no, that's just terrible.It was bad enough last year, now it'll be worse. We're really going to be in trouble on Sept. 19. I'm going back in the pool."

Next: The Bullets' Summer