Few of the youngsters expect to make a career out of professional hockey, but all of them were ambitious enough to search out instruction in the Washington area, where there are few qualified coaches and no scholastic leagues.

Between the long listings for football, basketball and soccer camps, they found a couple of summer hockey camps.

The Benfield Pines Hockey School in Severna Park is run by Washington Capitals right wing Craig Laughlin. At the Mount Vernon Recreation Center in Alexandria, where there is ice year round, 76 youngsters have spent the past two weeks at the first Washington Capitals hockey school.

Laughlin stresses fundamentals, but also offers advanced instruction -- minus cameo appearances by big-name players. The Capitals school naturally features some Capitals. Gaetan Duchesne and Lou Franceschetti regularly assist, as do Kevin Hatcher and Yvon Corriveau, Washington's first-round draft choices in 1984 and 1985, respectively. And Capitals assistants Ron Lapointe and Terry Murray have coached at Mount Vernon.

"We just try to help them on the fundamentals," said Franceschetti. "We try to set them straight on passing, skating and shooting. We try to teach them the things we were taught."

The players are on the ice from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m., receiving instruction in passing and shooting, starting and stopping, and striding and balance. After a swim session, lunch, films and lectures, they scrimmage, blue against white, in the afternoon. The cost is $140 for the week-long session.

Laughlin runs an advanced camp three days a week for two weeks for players with five or more years experience. The cost is $230. "The kids in this camp are at a level where they don't have to be taught to skate," Laughlin said. "When they've been skating that long, you can't change their styles. They learn the same things the Caps teach me. We use the same drills here that (Capitals Coach) Bryan Murray uses in practice."

Laughlin also offers a program for less-skilled players. The cost: $160 per week. "What's good about that school is that we offer four hours of ice time each day for the kids," Laughlin said. "In Toronto, I had 1 1/2 hours, and that was it."

The first session at Mount Vernon was attended by players 9 to 12. Although this week's session was for players 13-19, some younger players were there, like 12-year-old Josh Sacks of Potomac, who plays in the Montgomery County league.

"My dad has season tickets to the Caps," Josh said. "I'd like to continue in hockey because it's a fun sport, a rough sport."

Others, like Amy Mayer of McLean, the only girl attending the school, have more compelling reasons for being there. Mayer, a senior at Langley High School, is missing the first week of school so she can attend. She would like to play for the women's team at St. Lawrence University next year, but has received little formal hockey instruction since moving here from Wisconsin.

"I couldn't miss the opportunity," Mayer said. "I got a brochure in the mail from the Junior Caps. I got an excuse to miss the first week of school from my counselor last May."

There are several women at Laughlin's camp. "They are just about the best skaters on the ice," he said. "I've had girls here the last four years of all ages and one or two in the advanced camps."

The other things Laughlin has had for four years is a camp at full capacity. "The Capitals may have started the camp because they knew mine was always full," he said.

In Canada, where there is no shortage of interest, Corriveau started playing hockey at the age of 9, late in life by Canadian standards. But Corriveau, who is now 18, made up quickly for the lost time by playing more than 70 games a year in the youth leagues in his home town of Welland, Ontario.

He and Franceschetti know that the local hockey players don't have the opportunity for such immersion. "We just tell them to try their hardest," Corriveau said. "We're here to do as much as we can for them."

Franceschetti, who is in the process of getting in shape for the Capitals' camp, which is scheduled to open Sept. 17, is impressed with what he has seen. "It's good to see them playing in this part of the country. If they had the right training and coaching, it would be interesting to see how far they could go."

"We just feel we have so much to offer with our pros," said Yvon Labre, the former Capital who is currently the team's director of community relations. "When you get a pro putting you through the motions, it's quite a difference."