Justin Fisher learned years ago what it takes to play for Steve Howard.
Now the Flushing, Mich., native will learn what it takes to coach with Howard.
Fisher, 27, played under Howard for the Flint Jr. Generals of the North American 3 Hockey League in the 2013-14 season. A 6-feet-1, 190-pound forward, Fisher excelled that season, scoring 14 goals and adding 40 assists for 54 points in 52 games.
This week, Howard decided to bring Fisher to Austin, hiring him as an assistant coach with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League.
Fisher spent last season as an assistant coach for Adrian College's ACHA (club hockey) team.
"It's been six or seven years since I coached Justin as a player, and I'm excited to get to work with him again, this time as an assistant on my staff," Howard said. "As a player, Justin always did things the right way, and I'm sure his coaching style will be the same. 'Fish' has an infectious personality that our players are going to like."
Adrian College's NCAA team, which plays in Division III, has had bit of a pipeline of players running to it from Austin.
Defensemen Terry Ryder and Matt Eller were on last season's team that went 21-5-3, while former Bruins Brian Bachnak, Trevor Boyd, Cory Dunn and Dillon Kelley all played for the Bulldogs' NCAA team. Bruins forward Devon Fields, who wrapped up his career in Austin last season, committed to play for Adrian's ACHA team this coming season.
Fisher also played for Adrian's ACHA team from 2014-19, prior to becoming an assistant coach. He had 44 career goals and 137 points. He helped the Bulldogs win a ACHA Division I championship in 2018. The Bulldogs' ACHA program has qualified for the national tournament every year since 2011.
"I couldn't thank @AdrianMD1Hockey and AC (Adrian College) enough for everything they've done for me!" Fisher wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "It's been one of the most positive impacts on my life and wouldn't (be) where I am today without the Bulldog experience. That being said, I'm excited and ready to get started with @theaustinbruins."
Fisher rounds out the Bruins staff for the 2020-21 season, after the team hired New Prague High School head coach Cory Lonke to be an assistant coach and goalie coach. Lonke, a Proctor native, played college hockey at St. Scholastica and has previous coaching experience in the NAHL, having served as an assistant coach and scout for the Bruins' rival, the Minot Minotauros, from 2011-17.
Fisher and Lonke replace Kenny Orlando and Keegan Asmundson, both of whom departed for other jobs this offseason.
"We are so grateful for the work that Keegan put in this past season developing our goalies and coaching on the bench," Howard said. "We respect his decision to follow a new path outside of hockey and wish him the best of luck.
"We're also extremely excited to bring in a guy with as much experience as Cory. He's a guy who knows what it takes to get players to the Division I level. His experience, his knowledge, and proximity to the Austin Bruins and Rochester Grizzlies makes him a perfect fit for us and is exactly what we were looking for when we set out to find the next member of the coaching staff."
The Bruins are expected to report for training camp in early September, with the NAHL season scheduled, for now, to begin on Oct. 9.