For Dennis Bonvie, success has always been about making the most of his opportunities.
Now in his third year as a pro scout with the Boston Bruins, Bonvie appreciates that he’s recently been given the chance to “do a little bit more” and expand his role with the Bruins.
He previously scouted for Toronto and Chicago (where he earned three Stanley Cup rings) after his playing career ended in 2008.
It is not a stretch to say that Bonvie is a legend in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., where he and his family live and from where he can drive to a number of NHL arenas within a few hours to do his job.
When Bonvie signed with Pittsburgh in 1999 and was assigned to Wilkes-Barre, he saw an opportunity to help grow interest in hockey in a city that was getting an AHL team for the first time.
“I came in and thought, ‘Hockey’s big in Philly, hockey’s big in New York and in Hershey and we’re in the middle of those places,’” said Bonvie.
“I felt like people there were starving for knowledge of hockey, if that’s the right term. I came in and we had an exciting team and we had a couple of phenomenal years. The place was jam-packed every night. The support was through the roof.”
Bonvie was so popular that fans referred to the Wilkes-Barre Arena as “The House that Bonvie Built.” They loved his fierce style of play and the fact he never backed down from a fight.
In 871 AHL games, Bonvie registered a staggering 4,493 penalty minutes. In 92 NHL games, he had 311 minutes with Edmonton, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Ottawa and Colorado.
He said he always had the fire to succeed from a young age, growing up in what he jokingly refers to as the “twin cities” of Frankville-Havre Boucher in Antigonish County.
In 1989-90, while he was playing with the Antigonish Jr. A Bulldogs as a 16-year-old midget-aged defenceman, the Maritime hockey community learned about the fire that burned in Bonvie.
“You try to make a name for yourself and gain respect, and I did that. A big one for me was when I fought with a guy who is now a very good friend of mine, Tommy Hickey. Tommy was probably 20 at the time. I remember going to the game that day and everyone was talking about him being the toughest guy in the league. My ears kind of perked up.
“During the game he hit a teammate and I thought that was my opportunity. That’s kind of the way my career has been, on and off the ice. I’ve always tried to seize the opportunity. If it’s there you do the best you can with it. I went after Tommy and I did pretty well. I fought him again at home a couple of weeks later when the place was packed in the playoffs. I did pretty well again.
“When I moved on to major junior (Kitchener and North Bay) the next year, I had a little confidence in what I was doing. And then I had to prove I belonged at the next level and prove I could handle them. I wasn’t the biggest guy but I did that. I felt very fortunate that I could continue to forge ahead.”
In speaking with Bonvie, it immediately becomes clear that he has never taken anything for granted and appreciates every chance he’s been given throughout his life in hockey.
“I’ve been very fortunate and I had a longer career than most,” he said. “I’m proud to say I’m from Frankville, Nova Scotia.”
By Dan Robertson – TSN Radio 690 – Contributed to the Halifax Chronlicle-Herald