Seattle Kraken hire assistant coach Jessica Campbell in historic first for NHL

Jessica Campbell spent the past two seasons with the Kraken’s AHL affiliate in California

The Seattle Kraken promoted Jessica Campbell in a historic move on Wednesday.

The Kraken hired Campbell as a full-time assistant coach, which makes her the first woman to hold that position in NHL history. The move had been largely expected after her run as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, where she was also the first woman behind a bench in that league’s history.

Campbell was one of two coaches that new head coach Dan Bylsma hired on Wednesday. The Kraken also brought in assistant Bob Woods, who has been in the league for more than a decade.

“Jessica and I spent the last two years coaching in Coachella Valley,” Bylsma said in a statement. “I’m confident of what she can do for our staff and bring to the players. I watched her build strong relationships with prospects such as Tye Kartye, Shane Wright and Ryker Evans. She has the ability to relate to players about their games and what they bring to a team. She’s demonstrated that over the last two seasons, not just with Tye Kartye and the others, but [veteran leaders] John Hayden and Max McCormick, among others. That’s why she is such an appealing candidate and why she’s joining our staff.”

Campbell played four seasons herself in college at Cornell, and then professionally both in Canada and Sweden. She started coaching in 2017, and worked as an assistant and skills coach in Germany and Sweden, and she also worked as an assistant with the German national team at the IIHF Men’s World Championships.

Jessica Campbell, left, is the first woman to be hired as a full-time assistant coach in the NHL.
Jessica Campbell, left, is the first woman to be hired as a full-time assistant coach in the NHL. (AP/Jason Redmond, File)

Campbell was hired by the Firebirds for their inaugural season starting in 2022, and she helped lead them to back-to-back trips to the AHL’s Calder Cup Final.

"She has an interesting background not only with skating, but skill development," general manager Ron Francis said earlier this year, via ESPN. "That's been a big part of what they've been able to do with Coachella Valley. She runs the power play, works with the forwards, and works with everybody's on helping improve their skating, their skill development and, as Dan said, both her and Stu Bickel have been a big part of their success down there."

The Kraken went 34-35 last season, their third in existence, and they missed the playoffs despite reaching the Western Conference finals the year before. The team then fired head coach Dave Hakstrol, which led to Bylsma being hired in Seattle. This marks Bylsma’s first head coaching job in the league since his two-year run with the Buffalo Sabres, which ended in 2017. He got his start with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008, where he spent six seasons and led them to a Stanley Cup win.