Centre Sportif Laval is light-years away from Capital Centre. Here, the hard double seats require a special sort of backside. And it requires a special kind of person to stand behind the visitors' bench, as well.

The referee, thoroughly intimidated, permits the Laval Voisins free rein. The players in the blue sweaters of the Quebec Remparts obviously consider survival more important than victory.

When Quebec takes a quick 3-0 lead, the home-ice advantage comes into play. The Remparts' goalie is shoved out of the way to permit a clearer shot and the goal is allowed. Later, a Laval forward slips behind the goalie, uprooting the cage as the puck goes in. It also counts. To nobody's surprise, Laval wins, 8-4.

Through it all, the visiting coach paces behind his bench, arms folded, encouraging his players, rarely raising his voice, seemingly unmoved by the frustration of it all.

His name is Guy Charron, and he finds solace in the fact that no matter what occurs on the ice, no matter the injustice of the result, he is working in the sport he loves -- hockey.

Charron, 35, spent 11 seasons in the National Hockey League, playing 734 games in some of the most frustrating circumstances ever to try one's soul. For sad example, no man participated in more NHL games without appearing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It could have been so different. He started out with Montreal, where playoffs are a fact of life, but he soon was traded to Detroit and then to Kansas City and Washington.

With the Capitals, he was "The Franchise," one player people came to cheer on a dismal crew. For three seasons, interminable to some, he never missed a game. Then, playing for Canada in the World Championships, he injured a knee, lost a crucial step of his speed and eventually found himself unemployed.

Charron, whose wife and children loved the Washington area, could have stayed to work for former teammate Bernie Wolfe's financial consulting firm. Instead, he played two years in Europe, appeared briefly with New Haven in the American Hockey League and now is serving his second season as general manager and coach of the junior Remparts.

It is a frustrating job, but has its rewards. The principal benefit, from Charron's viewpoint, is that he still gets to skate and participate in hockey. So determined was he to remain in the sport, he says with a smile, he even considered becoming a referee or linesman. If he loses this job, he promises, he will write everyone in hockey, if necessary, to find another.

"It can be very frustrating and sometimes I wish I could trade the whole team, but you can't," he said. "For one thing, there are clauses in contracts. Because of schooling, you can only trade some of them at the end of a semester.

"It's a fact of life in junior hockey that a lot of guys don't want to play on the road. A good hockey player has to be determined to pay the price on the road. We're in the middle of the pack (11-15-2) and right now we need to play good, solid disciplined hockey. But some guys aren't willing to pay the price. Last night, when we played at home, I requested each guy to throw one body check a period. They did it and we won. Tonight, I asked the same thing, but here they're not concerned about that. I could get away with playing a couple of lines, but the guys playing a lot get too tired as the season goes on.

"Last year, for me, was a great experience as a coach. We were fighting for first all season. This year, we lost eight in a row and we're struggling. It's a challenge to get the team back on the track.

"There have been some tough moments and rough spots. But I don't have a gray hair yet. I have the opportunity to step on the ice each day and the most important reason I took the job was to stay in hockey. Hockey is my life."

In Washington, he had the captaincy taken from him through a devious election in which he was not a candidate; injured much of one season, he had to shave the beard he had grown in order to appear in the team picture; he was paid off when he obviously still was more valuable than half the players on the roster; when his playing days ended in Europe, he returned in search of a job and the Capitals suggested he sell season tickets.

Is he bitter about those experiences? Hardly.

Asked to recall his memories of Washington, he said, "They're great memories. I say that sincerely. Anywhere I've played I was happy, but the biggest memories are of Washington. I had my biggest years there and it was a special time."

He holds out his hand to offer a look at his ring, which bears the legend "M.V.P. Washington Capitals 1977-78."

"I always wear that ring," he said. "I'm proud that I was Washington's most valuable player and I have the trophy the fans gave me as the most popular player. It meant something to be called 'The Franchise.' How many people does that happen to in a lifetime?

"If there was one downer, it was when they bought me out of the last year of my contract. If I wasn't in shape or didn't fit in, I could accept that. But I felt I could have helped the younger players and I wanted to finish out that last year.

"It was a sad point of my career the day Max McNab (then the Capitals' general manager) told me he had put me on waivers and I would be cut if I wasn't picked up. What saved me then was the opportunity to go overseas. We were Swiss champions, and I felt wanted again. You have to feel wanted as a hockey player."

For a few years, anyway, as he skated on the Capital Centre ice and fans chanted, "Guy, Guy, Guy," he knew that feeling. For the new fans in Washington who have recently climbed on an accelerating bandwagon, it is their loss that they missed the chance to cheer a guy named Guy.