OLD TOWN — Former Bangor High School hockey coach Denis Collins will be the head coach of the first-year cooperative Old Town-Orono hockey team this season.
His appointment to the post was approved by the Old Town school committee on Sept. 18 and by the Orono school board on Tuesday night.
The incident involved Collins informing his players that since they got off to a late start and they were on a tight schedule, he wanted to try to get there without taking a bathroom break if possible. He didn’t want to be assessed a bench minor penalty for being late. He joked that it would be a “pee jug” trip for them.
A player urinated into a jug and it wound up spilling on the bus. Collins said he cleaned up the mess after telling the player that his behavior wasn’t acceptable.
Collins met with Bangor High principal Paul Butler and athletic director Steve Vanidestine before discussing the situation with Bangor Superintendent Betsy Webb.
He said he had hoped to retain his job but eventually decided that resigning was his best and only option.
Old Town athletic director Brett Hoogterp and Orono AD Mike Archer said they discussed the incident at length with Collins and that Collins took full responsibility for his actions and insisted that it wouldn’t be repeated.
“Everybody makes mistakes. Denis was very open with us about it. He has learned from it. And I think it will make him a better coach,” said Archer.
Hoogterp added that there will be an open line of communication between himself, Archer and Collins that will “avoid future situations.”
Both athletic directors said they are pleased to have a coach with experience leading their team, which became a cooperative team because Orono was looking at the prospect of having just six players next season.
Old Town was winless a year ago but will return 13 of its 17 players.
It will be the 10th cooperative team among the 43 schoolboy hockey teams in the state.
Collins was chosen as the Eastern Maine Class A coach of the year by his peers two seasons ago when he led the Rams to a 13-5 season.
“Denis will bring experience and a strong knowledge of the game that can help us build our program,” said Hoogterp. “He also has a genuine enthusiasm when it comes to working with young adults.”
“We’re in a rebuilding cycle and Denis has a proven skill set. He has worked with kids of all age levels,” said Archer. “We need somebody who is good fundamentally and Denis is.
“Brett and I intend to work with Denis and support him,” added Archer.
Collins said he was grateful for the opportunity.
“I contemplated it quite a while. I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself back into that arena (high school). (The incident) was a bad situation that damaged everyone who was involved. But I talked to a lot of people about it and I’m excited. I know some of the kids already. It will be fun,” said the 53-year-old Collins.
“I was quite impressed with the interview process. They’re good people and they asked some great questions. I feel they were very supportive of me,” added Collins. “It’s going to be a nice challenge.”
Hoogterp said Collins applied for the job and was one of a half-dozen who submitted applications.
The Old Town-Orono Black Bears will have their first practice on Nov. 18.
Last season was the third season for Collins behind the Ram bench. Assistant Quinn Paradis took Collins’ job on an interim basis and is now the full-time head coach.
Several Bangor players defended Collins, saying the bus incident wasn’t his fault, it was the players’ fault, and the punishment was unjust.
Zeb Tuell said Collins was a “great coach who cared about the game so much and put so much into it both on and off the ice. He took care of our jerseys. He raised money in the offseason.”
“He meant a lot to Bangor High School hockey and he meant a lot to me, personally,” said Parker Sanderson, who went on to win the Travis Roy Award given to the state’s top senior player. Sanderson played for Collins for several seasons including with the Maine Freeze.