American Hockey League

Bonvie thriving in second career as scout

Dennis Bonvie played 92 NHL games and has three Stanley Cup rings.

Chew on that for a minute.

The all-time pro ruffian with 4,804 PIMS in 871 American Hockey League games and those 92 in six different NHL places including 14 games with Edmonton Oilers has those three Cup baubles as a six-year pro scout with the Chicago Blackhawks.

If his current employer, the Boston Bruins, hadn’t lost game seven to St. Louis, he would have four.

Bonvie, who was in the Oilers organization for five years in the 1990s as a right-winger/defenceman, would be scouting teams the No. 1-ranked Bruins might be playing in the first playoff round if COVID-19 wasn’t sweeping North America.

Instead, he’s at his home in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he spent the most time (285 pro games), in his fifth year as Bruins pro scout.

“Cleaning closets, cleaning house,” joked Bonvie, 46, at home with his 15-year-old son Rhy, 13-year-old daughter Davyn and wife Kelly. “I’m usually on the move and it’s not easy being cooped up.

“Last year (Game 7) was a nightmare, uh, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it hurt.”

He started pro scouting in Toronto after quitting as a player. Then he got the job with the Hawks, in part because he knew Marc Bergevin, then head of Chicago pro scouting, and Bonvie is a friendly worker-bee, smart, good at selling himself.

“Very fortunate, exciting time in Chicago,” he said.

Same story in Boston, where GM Don Sweeney and director of player personnel John Ferguson oversees Bonvie, the legendary Tommy McVie, Adam Creighton and others. Bonvie watches between 130 to 150 pro games a season and files his reports, fortunate he’s in the right geographical spot to drive to games and get back to see his family in the morning.

He admits the first time he walked into a press box as a pro scout, the other NHL bird-dogs guffawed.

“Man, are we glad to see you? The game’s are going to be 20 minutes shorter now because there won’t be your antics,” they sang in unison.

Bonvie has always been a pro scout, never watching teenagers on the amateur side.

“All I know is when you bring a guy over (trade) on the pro side he better be able to contribute the way you said he could and with amateurs it’s all projection,” he said.

So does Bonvie favour feisty guys as a pro scout?

“You learn how to adapt, the game’s changed so much. You need all types of players but you want competitive guys, hard on pucks, play with some sort of stiffness to their game,” said Bonvie.

Not a great skater, not that big, but with a heart always pumping hard. He would have loved a longer NHL career, but that’s life.

“Would I have liked to score 30 goals a year and play 800 NHL games, yeah, but it wasn’t the case and I’m fortunate to have played as many pro games as I did,” he said. “No complaints on what I did or how I did it.”

His first NHL game was as an Oiler. His first shift was against Wayne Gretzky when he was playing for Los Angeles. His only NHL goal came as a Bruin, a shot that beat Chris Osgood, who has 401 NHL wins.

As a scout, he’s clearly good at it, with the same work ethic and savvy he showed as a never-drafted player who managed to play close to 1,000 pro games for 14 teams.

In the NHL, stops in Edmonton, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado, Ottawa. In the AHL, Cape Breton, Hamilton, Wilkes-Barre, Portland (Maine), Philadelphia Phantoms, Providence, Binghamton and Hershey. A lot of one-year deals.

As a fighter, over 200 times as a pro, Bonvie admits he, “couldn’t say no.”

“That said, there were lots of nights I wish I was scoring goals,” he said.

“But I knew what my job was, took it seriously, maybe a little too seriously some nights. I didn’t want our team pushed around and wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable. I can’t say I loved fighting but I loved being part of a team and loved pro hockey.”

As a kid from Antigonish, N.S., Bonvie got a tryout in Cape Breton, the Oilers AHL farm club and never looked back, getting into one playoff game with Boston against Montreal in 2002.

“I remember my first NHL game. I had been in the pre-game warmups four or five games hadn’t played and I was skating around before game against LA, figuring it was the same thing and they said Jason Arnott was sick,” he said.

“First shift I figured I’d get in a fight with Matt Johnson and Matty said ‘no, I can’t.’ They drop the puck, I look over and there’s Wayne Gretzky. They had short-shifted Matty’s line and the big guys came out. Wayne’s right beside me and I’m pinching myself.

“I wasn’t sure if I could play junior or I could play pro, and you scratch and claw and reach your dream and there I am out against the best player in the world. I’ll remember that moment forever.”

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