BANGOR, Maine — Denis Collins, the Eastern Maine Class A Coach of the Year last year, resigned Monday as head coach of the Bangor High School hockey team.
Bangor Principal Paul Butler had been conducting an investigation of an incident regarding a lack of bathroom stops that happened last week during a bus trip to and from a game at Presque Isle, normally a three-hour-plus drive.
“I guess making a comment that we weren’t going to stop eventually became my demise,” Collins said.
A time crunch was set up when the game was originally scheduled to start at 5 p.m. but was changed to 4:45 p.m. No adjustments were made in the scheduled 1 p.m. departure time from Bangor High, Collins said Monday. The bus hit the interstate at 1:15 p.m., he said.
“I did make a comment that, ‘We’re pressed for time and there would be no stops. We need to get to Presque Isle on time.’ As far as coming back, no comments were made about that.”
Collins pointed out there would be game consequences for arriving late.
“If you don’t get there in time, you can be assessed bench minors for not being on the ice on time,” said Collins.
“At no given time did any kid ask to stop on the way up,” he said. “Nobody asked to stop [on the way back]. We just went with our routine fun and conversation and some sang songs, the whole nine yards, but there was never a need to stop. Nobody asked. After a game, we typically get on the bus and go [home].
“When asked to stop in the past, I always did.”
Collins, who was in his third year as the Rams’ coach, said he was not aware that anything that could have been addressed by a bathroom break was occurring on the bus.
“If I find out anything, it’s usually after the fact,” he said. “Nothing came to my attention that night that anything was going on.”
Butler may still have some information not involving Collins that is requiring further review, said Collins.
“Anything that may have gone on that is not kosher, or whatever the case may be, … the school is dealing with it,” he said.
In hindsight, Collins sees where he might have handled the situation differently.
“Could anything have been done differently? I guess now, after the fact, yeah, there is,” he said. “Now you look at it and say, well, jeez, I could have stopped. I could have asked them to stop, but if nobody asks me to stop, why would I stop? That’s the only difference.”
Butler declined to confirm or discuss any details when interviewed last week, and further details were not included in a release from the school late Monday afternoon.
Phone messages left with Butler and Bangor Athletic Director Steve Vanidestine on Monday were not returned.
It was stated in the school’s release that Butler and Vanidestine accepted Collins’ resignation during a meeting Monday.
“Recent decisions and communication regarding team travel put students in a situation that does not reflect the standards of Bangor High School programs,” according to the release. “To his credit, Mr. Collins offered his resignation in the interest of avoiding interference with the remainder of the season.”
Collins said he resigned to prevent any disruption to the team.
“My resignation will remove any continued drama that could disrupt their championship momentum,” he said. “This team has potential to win both Eastern Maine and state championships. … It is with much regret that I resign. I have not had the opportunity to say goodbye to the team, so therefore I would like to wish them good luck and great success.”
Collins said leaving wasn’t easy.
“There is a lot of difficulty in this. I have coached some of these kids for close to 10 and, some, 12 years and enjoyed a trip to the [youth hockey] national level with this team in 2010,” he said.
Assistant coach Quinn Paradis was the acting head coach for Saturday’s 8-2 victory over Lawrence of Fairfield, and he will continue in that capacity.
For now, Collins expects to spend the winter watching his son, Andrew, play for the Brewer Witches.
“My daughter says, ‘What are you gonna do. You love hockey more than you do me,”’ said Collins as a laugh comes through in the background. “It’s going to be tough. A lot of tears [are] being shed in this house tonight.”
At least one parent is trying to organize the others into a group to petition the Bangor school board to return Collins to the head coach position.
“The parents are going to have a meeting [this week]” to work on making their pitch, said Chuck Sanderson, whose son, Parker, is one of the top team’s top scorers.
“We’re not going to take this forced resignation,” he said.
“They’ve organized what I feel was a witch hunt,” added Sanderson. “I’m looking out for the kids.”
Collins said that he would not look for another hockey job, but when he learned there was a movement starting to bring him back, he said he would be willing to return to the Rams.
“Bangor is the only job I would take,” he said.
He also said that he has received numerous calls and text messages of support.
“I’m happy to see people are standing behind me,” he said.