The Washington Capitals hired a "policeman" yesterday. Making use of the National Hockey League waiver draft for the first time since 1978, the Capitals took 6-foot-3 left wing Dwight Schofield from the St. Louis Blues.

Schofield's NHL statistics make it plain why he was selected. In 118 games with Detroit, Montreal and St. Louis, he has recorded six goals and 412 penalty minutes.

Contacted in Lethbridge, Alberta, where the Blues played the Canadian Olympic team last night, Schofield was asked whether he considered himself a policeman, a hockey term for a tough player who uses his fists to protect more skilled teammates.

"They've been calling me that for two years in St. Louis, so I guess that's what I am," Schofield said. "I'd have to think Washington wants me to play a physical-type game. But I'd like to add some pretty good hockey, too.

"I'm coming to a team that's right up with the best of them, and I have to be happy about that. I hope I get a fair amount of ice time. I think I would have played in a lot more games with the Blues this year if I'd sneaked through the draft."

Schofield can play both wings as well as defense. General Manager David Poile indicated that he would be used as a swing man, depending on the opposition, and take Timo Blomqvist's spot as No. 7 defenseman.

When Washington chose Schofield, it left Blomqvist unprotected, but the Blues took Schofield's $7,500 waiver price rather than Blomqvist, and all other teams passed on the Finnish defenseman.

"We've been looking for a seventh defenseman ever since Timo made it known he wanted to play elsewhere," Poile said. "We had a little problem getting Timo to come to training camp and I've tried hard to trade him. Today he was available for nothing and there were no takers.

"I'll have to talk to Timo tomorrow about his future. Obviously, Dwight Schofield is ahead of him. Schofield is a tough player and he can swing up and back. He fits the bill for us."

Schofield, 29, is a native of Waltham, Mass., who went north to play junior hockey in London, Ontario, in 1974, when the Capitals conducted their first training camp there.

At London, Schofield was a victim of one of the more diabolical hazing schemes ever concocted. In Ottawa, his teammates removed his clothes and tied him to a chair in the elevator of a hotel, then sent him on an up-and-down journey.

"Yeah, I was only 17 and they really pulled one on me," Schofield said. "But I have no regrets about going to Canada. I don't think I would have made it to the NHL if I hadn't."

Schofield remembers his first NHL goal clearly. It came in his first NHL game on Jan. 4, 1977, at Capital Centre. He beat Ron Low with two minutes left, giving Detroit a 2-2 tie.

"That's a hard one to forget," said Schofield, who had to endure almost seven years in the minors before recording No. 2. "It was 2-1 for Washington and I was playing the left point for Detroit at the time. I expected a whistle along the boards, but the puck came loose and I went in and put it on the top shelf past Ronnie Low."

Asked how many penalty minutes he had acquired in exhibitions this year, Schofield said, "I just had one fight, against Detroit." Then, after a moment of silence, he added, "Aren't you going to ask me about my goals? I got one against Chicago."

Pittsburgh selected three players yesterday, all right wings -- Willy Lindstrom from Edmonton, Mike Blaisdell from the Rangers and Dan Frawley from Chicago.

Other players chosen were Minnesota defenseman Randy Velischek by New Jersey, Buffalo center Brent Peterson by Vancouver, Chicago defenseman Randy Boyd by the Islanders, Islanders defenseman Dave Langevin by Minnesota and St. Louis defenseman Craig Levie by Calgary.

The general managers voted to kill an experimental rule that had forbidden substitutions during equal-strength faceoffs in the neutral zone.