Seattle Kraken Appoints Jessica Campbell as First Female NHL Assistant Coach

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The sporting world bears witness as the Seattle Kraken again challenges hockey’s ice ceiling. Stepping off the ice and onto the bench, former pro-hockey player Jessica Campbell is taking her career to unprecedented heights. From trading a stick for a whistle, Campbell is now trading in assistant coaching in the minor league for a major role in the National Hockey League (NHL).

It’s a role no woman has filled before, an historic first, as she steps up to act as assistant coach for the Seattle Kraken. She carries with her an unshakeable belief that courage and passion can carve one’s destiny in sport and life, ever pushing towards believing in the incredible.

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Swapping a jersey for a suit on Wednesday, Campbell claimed her spot in NHL’s rich history. With this bold step, she becomes the first woman to ever hold a position in the capacity of an assistant or associate coach on an NHL team’s bench.

Campbell’s journey to this path-braking role is one forged in hard work and dedication. After trading in her skates back in 2017, she lent her expertise to the Kraken’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Coachella Valley, sharing the ice with head coach Dan Bylsma. Speculation had been rife regarding whether Campbell would make the leap and follow Bylsma when he was appointed head coach for the Kraken in May.

That speculation has now been put to rest, and in so doing, Campbell has broken another glass ceiling for women in hockey. Following hot on the heels of Emily Engel-Natzke’s appointment in 2022 as the Washington Capitals’ video coach – the league’s first female full-time assistant – Campbell’s presence on the bench reiterates a slow but steady change in the game.

Campbell knows she isn’t just skating on thin ice—she’s forging a new path, opening doors and redefining possibilities for others. It’s a role she holds with humility, understanding the weight of her responsibility to influence the game positively, thereby broadening the horizons for women in sporting careers.

Despite the fanfare attached to her historic appointment, Campbell retains her strong focus on achieving success for her team and making a positive impact in her new role. Her rich résumé attests to her dedication to the game, including notable performances with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the women’s national team, representing Canada at the 2015 world championships.

Before hanging up her skates, Campbell made a brief appearance with Sweden’s Malmo Redhawks in the 2019-20 season. Upon retiring from playing, she quickly earned a stellar reputation as a competent coach, starting her coaching career with Coachella Valley in 2022. She also spent time as assistant coach for Germany during the 2022 IIHF World Championships.

It was her stint as a personal skating and skill-development coach, including guiding Brent Seabrook through his injury recovery, where Campbell found her true calling. She realized that translating her knowledge and experience into instruction to help hockey players was rewarding and made a significant impact.

Campbell, a 32-year-old from Rocanville, Saskatchewan, had previously broken records as the first full-time female assistant coach in the AHL with Coachella Valley. She even had a brief one-game run as an assistant on the Kraken bench during a preseason game against Calgary just last September.

Bylsma views bringing Campbell to Seattle as an integral part of developing key players such as Ryker Evans, Shane Wright and Tye Kartye — the future pillars of the Kraken. Her potential for steering the team to success at the NHL level is viewed with anticipation.

The presence of women on the bench as coaches has been a bridge too far for the NHL compared to the NBA, MLB and NFL. However, as part of its efforts to cultivate potential candidates, the NHL Coaches Association initiated a Female Coaches Development Program in 2021.

The Seattle Kraken has always been a trailblazer in providing opportunities for women in hockey operations. The team’s assistant general manager, Alexandra Mandrycky, was among the first front-office hires made by the franchise when it joined the league in 2021. Hall of Famer Cammi Granato, who served as a pro scout for the team before moving to the Vancouver Canucks as an assistant GM in 2022, is another testament to the team’s commitment to gender equity in the sport.

Joining Campbell in the coaching ranks is Bob Woods, whom the Kraken hired as one of Bylsma’s assistant. Woods, a former assistant with the Minnesota Wild since 2017, became available when Dean Evason, the team’s head coach, was let go early last season. The remaining members of the Kraken’s staff include assistant coach Dave Lowry, goaltending coach Steve Briere, video coach Tim Ohashi, and video assistant Brady Morgan.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.