Denis Collins says he didn't think anything of the comment at the time. He coaches high school kids, and he made a joke they thought was funny.
The bus trip that followed led to an investigation, and the investigation led to Collins resigning in his third season as Bangor High School hockey coach, just two games into the regular season and less than 12 months after being named Class A Ice Hockey Coach of the Year.
On Dec. 11, Bangor had a road game at Presque Isle. Even for Bangor, the northern-most team in Maine Class A football, Presque Isle is a long trip. The bus ride is about three hours each way.
"A couple of nights before we left for Presque Isle," Collins said, "I told the kids, 'We need to watch how we hydrate ourselves. It's going to be a long trip. We're going to try not to stop.'"
Collins said he added, jokingly, "It looks like a pee jug trip for us."
As the bus trip approached, Collins said a rest stop was not possible. The team had to be on the ice at 4:45 p.m., and he says the bus didn't get on the highway until around 1:15. Stopping along the way in Millinocket or Houlton would have meant getting off the interstate, and another 15 or 20 minutes. Collins was worried about the Rams receiving a bench minor for not taking the ice in time.
"Nobody asked to stop," Collins said. "But I guess, on the way there, someone urinated into a jug."
Collins said players stood up on the bus when one of them began urinating. The players standing up caught his eye, so he looked back and saw someone apparently relieving himself.
"I turned around and said, 'Hey! Hey! We can't have any of that! Stop!" Collins said. "And it ended."
According to Collins, there was one female on the bus, who sits next to him, behind the bus driver. Collins said she did not react, and she "absolutely" could not have seen the player urinating.
"There were too many guys there," Collins said.
Two nights later, Collins was in Bangor to watch his son, Andrew, who plays for Brewer. He says some Bangor players told him they were asked about what went on during that bus ride.
"I knew right then and there, there was going to be some problems," Collins said.
According to Collins, he sat down with an administrator the following day and was told he should not have made the "pee jug" comment. During the meeting, Collins said he was going to resign in the best interests of the team, but he says he was talked out of it.
On Monday, there was another meeting. Collins will not get into specifics of that meeting.
"Things had changed, major," he said. "There was a resignation, but I'm just going to leave it at that."
Collins said he will not discuss that meeting because he is meeting today with Dr. Betsy Webb, the school superintendent.
"I definitely have to meet and give the superintendent an opportunity to see if there was a fair investigation, and if I was fairly treated," Collins said.
Since the investigation became public, Collins said he has received tremendous support. including contact from New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano (who played at the University of Maine) and current UMaine coach Tim Whitehead.
Kyle Alexander, who now plays for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, wrote about Collins on Facebook, "Like him or not, he's the best coach I've ever played for. He put countless hours into the sport of hockey, and youth hockey specifically. I played for him for at least 7 years, and he found a way to keep each year interesting. He was one of the few youth coaches I had that was focused on developing quality hockey players as well as developing good young men in the process."
"That brought tears to my eyes," Collins said. "My wife was crying. My kids were crying."
Former assistant Quinn Paradis is now coaching Bangor, and Collins said he would love to come back and coach the Rams.
"I've been with these kids forever," he said. "This is a state championship team. They can do it. They have all the elements: Good kids, good character, hard-working. I've known the parents since before their kids were born. These kids are like my own."