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Bonvie's got a fighting chance

Tuesday, 6 October, 1998
Dennis Bonvie is so happy he could punch somebody in the face. 
In fact, that's how the Chicago-bound tough guy will probably celebrate his born-again hockey career. 
Drop the gloves, roll up the sleeves and pound out five years worth of frustration on the first poor sap who looks at him funny. 
After stagnating in Edmonton's minor-league system for five years, Dennis the Menace finally got his wish yesterday - a fresh start somewhere else. 
"I'm thankful they put me on waivers and gave me a chance to play somewhere, that's all I ever asked for,'' said Bonvie, one of two Oilers selected in the NHL waiver draft (Nashville took Zdeno Ciger with the first pick). 
"It was an anxious day for me. I didn't know if it was going to happen, if somebody was going to take me. I'm glad it was Chicago, it's a great organization, a great city. It's going to be fun.'' 
A lot more fun than his last few years in the Oiler system. Bonvie, who might just have the biggest heart in the franchise, was spinning his wheels in Hamilton and he knew it. 

"I thought I was doing everything right,'' said the five-foot-11, 205-pounder. "They told me I had to work on my skating and I did. I thought I had a good camp. 
"It's just been tough, it's like I've been working for a spot that's not there. They always wanted to look at other guys.'' 
Bonvie wasn't even included in the 1998-99 Edmonton Oilers media guide. Not even in the In The System section. 
"I just wanted a chance and it wasn't available in Edmonton,'' he said over the phone from Hamilton. "I wouldn't really say I got a fair chance when I only played a handful of games. Everybody wrote me off. How do you think that makes me feel?'' 
Bonvie looked like a keeper when the Oilers first called him up three years ago. Subtle as a head butt, he immediately battled the likes of Bob Probert, Tie Domi and Gino Odjick and became an instant cult hero in the process. 
He was back in the minors after eight games. He didn't play in the NHL at all in 1996-97 and saw just four games with the big club last year. 
Discouraged? Absolutely. But Bonvie never stopped being a good soldier in Hamilton. The Oiler prospects were always safe (he had an AHL-record 522 penalty minutes in 1996-97) and the seats were always filled. 
Bulldogs GM Scott Howson is certainly sad to see him go, but glad that the 25-year-old from Nova Scotia is getting another shot at his dream. 
"We're going to miss him, that's for sure,'' said Howson. "On the ice and off it. He's been a valuable member of our team. 
"He was the most popular player on the team in Hamilton and also when we were in Cape Breton. He wears his heart on his sleeve and really sticks up for his teammates. The people love that about him. 
"At the same time he's getting an opportunity to go to a new organization and play in the NHL.'' 
That's all Bonvie ever wanted. If he didn't fit into Edmonton's plans - and it's been quite obvious for a couple of years now that he doesn't - then he wanted a fresh chance somewhere else. 
"The fans in Edmonton have been great,'' he said. "When I did get into the lineup they've been unbelievable. It would have been nice if it would have worked out, but it didn't.'' 
In Chicago, Bonvie's heading to a team that likes its tough guys. The Blackhawks always have two or three sluggers on staff. Bob Probert, Ryan Vandenbussche and Reid Simpson (who has a broken hand) are currently riding shotgun. 

"They've always been like that,'' said Bonvie. "They like to have lots of them. It's a nice place to go.'' 
He expects to be with the big team, not buried in the minors again. 
"That's what they picked me to do, to play in Chicago. I don't think they're going to send me down.'' 
Neither does Howson. 
"I think Chicago likes to have more of those types of players than we have in the past,'' he said, adding former Hamilton head coach Lorne Molleken, now an assistant in Chicago, should help Bonvie. 
"It's good to have somebody in your corner,'' said Howson. "With Lorne as an assistant there, somebody who knows him and I'm sure had some input into the decision, I think he'll have a good chance.'' 
A fighting chance, anyway. 
"It's good for him,'' said Oiler GM Glen Sather. "I hope he makes it.''