When I first walk into the offices of the Arrington Ice Arena to meet with Adrian’s new Division III men’s hockey head coach Justin Fisher, I don’t actually say hello. Instead, I walk in on him and other fellow coaches gathered around a whiteboard with rosters of both the Adrian men’s squads and their upcoming opposing teams. A strategic campfire is in session. Fisher and the other coaches are talking about defensive placements, conservative versus aggressive offenses, and specific tasks that need to be completed before the impending games.
Fisher’s knowledge of the sport came out fluently, as if hockey were his first language and not standard English. Once we sat down, I realized that I wasn’t far off. Hockey has been in Fisher’s blood almost since the day he was born.
“I started skating at three years old,” said Fisher, “and then transitioned into organized (hockey) play when I was five.”
Born in Flushing, MI and son of a hockey player, Fisher became quickly acquainted with the ice ever since he could walk. When he joined organized play, he bounced around multiple leagues all the way through high school, until he eventually found a spot on the Flint Generals junior hockey team. Aspiring to follow in the footsteps of his idol, former Detroit Red Wings forward Nikolas Lidstrom.
As his last year of junior hockey was wrapping up in Flint, Fisher and the Generals played the visiting Adrian College Division I men’s team. Playing against the Bulldogs peaked his interest, which prompted him to schedule a tour of campus.
“We were walking across the (Adrian College) mall, me and a couple other guys, and that’s when I fell in love,” states Fisher. “The campus was so beautiful, and then we went to the rink and was in awe of the place and everything that was going on.”
Fisher soon found himself on the Adrian men’s Division I team, maintaining a spot until he graduated. After graduation, Fisher at first had no intentions of returning to Adrian hockey.
“My plan was to use my degree and become a teacher,” said Fisher. “Then, actually one of the coaches on the Division III team contacted me and asked if I wanted to coach full time. I just jumped at the opportunity.”
Fisher is now in his first season as a head coach, implementing styles of both his predecessors and personal values to incorporate his coaching style. When asked about expectations for both himself and the team, Fisher stated:
“Defense is our number one priority. Other than that, we hope to improve on last season’s record and go above .500 so we can contend in the MCHA playoffs. For me, I just hope to be able to teach the players as best as I can so they can learn as much as possible from me.”
While he states that some zone schemes and other areas of play still needs to be improved on before the season begins, Fisher is optimistic about his team.
“We have great chemistry, especially with the nine freshmen that came in this year,” said Fisher. “We have guys that want to compete day in and day out, and that’s something you just can’t teach so it’s amazing to see. I think we’re going to have a really positive year.”