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Tuesday, 29 September, 1998

  As a fighter, Dennis Bonvie doesn't lose too many.
 But yesterday he finally gave up on one battle he obviously believes he never had any chance of winning.
 The Edmonton Oilers yesterday assigned the Antigonish antagonist back to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.
 "All I ever asked for was a chance - let's see what happens," the Group II free agent said, facing the Edmonton media likely for the last time yesterday in the Oilers dressing room.
 "I'd like to get a chance to play somewhere in the NHL. If I can't make it, then I'll be the first guy to agree with that situation."
 The Oilers essentially told the 25-year-old Nova Scotia native that he wasn't a part of their NHL plans.
 It was no surprise. The writing was on the wall and, heck, he was even removed from the In The System part of the Oiler media guide. But he obviously doesn't agree with his demotion.
 "I want another chance and we'll see what happens," said the young man who earlier this summer told The Sun he had asked for a trade. "My request was not taken upon deaf ears. They realize the situation and said if they could help me they will."
 Did he get a fair shot at taking on the role of enforcer with a club that still seems to be searching for one?
 "I don't know if I'm in a position where I can say I got a fair shot or not," he said, obviously holding back. "I came in and did the best that I could do.
 "And I'm a firm believer in that if I did the best that I can do then I walk away happy in my own mind that I gave it my best shot.
 "I think it's for you guys or anyone else to judge. I know deep down if I got a fair shot or not. But I'm not going to walk away negatively or crying over spilled milk.
 '`It just didn't happen for Dennis Bonvie here."
 Which is sad in a way.
 The five-foot-11 205-pounder, who signed as a free agent back in 1994, played just two pre-season games. He fought Kris King in the opening exhibition game against Toronto in Hamilton.
 Bonvie played four games with the NHL club last season for 27 penalty minutes. In Hamilton, where he is Top Dog with the fans, he finished with 11 goals, 19 assists and 295 penalty minutes.
 Two seasons ago he set an AHL record for PIMs with 522 minutes.
 He sells tickets in Hamilton where fans stand and chant his name every time the gloves come off, but that may have been his undoing.
 Yesterday he was just one of six players to be demoted or released.
 "I think Dennis likely understands his situation here," said Oilers head coach Ron Low. "One thing I did tell him was that if they had interest from anybody, tell them to call me because I'll give him a glowing recommendation.
 "He's one of those guys who understands his role and doesn't fight very many times for himself, but fights for his teammates.
 "I don't think you can define his role better than that. He does it well."
 It's not to say Bonvie was mistreated by the Oilers. They did, after all, have him on a one-way contract that paid $350,000 Cdn. That's a lot of dough for a minor-league player.
 He currently remains unsigned and will likely take his chances in the annual NHL waiver draft before he toils in the minors again.
 His options, right now, are limited. Bonvie said he would take the next few days to decide his future, but his past was obviously on his mind yesterday.
 "It's very disappointing. I loved playing here," he said, holding back his emotion.
 "The fans have been spectacular with me for the little bit I did play here.
 "It had always been in my best interest to stay here. Obviously that's not the case now."