Seattle Kraken Hire First Full-Time Female Assistant Coach in NHL History

Seattle Kraken coach Jessica Campbell

The Seattle Kraken made history on Wednesday by promoting Jessica Campbell to a full-time assistant coach position, making her the first woman to hold this role in NHL history. This move was anticipated following her successful stint with their AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, where she also became the first woman behind a bench in that league.

Campbell was one of two coaches hired by new head coach Dan Bylsma. The Kraken also added Bob Woods, a veteran with over a decade of experience in the league, to their coaching staff.

“Jessica and I spent the last two years coaching in Coachella Valley,” Bylsma said in a statement to the NHL. “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 Builds on an Excellent Resume

Jessica Campbell, a former player with four seasons at Cornell and professional experience in Canada and Sweden, began her coaching career in 2017. She was an assistant and skills coach in Germany and Sweden and assisted the German national team at the IIHF Men’s World Championships.

In 2022, Campbell was hired by the Coachella Valley Firebirds for their inaugural season, leading them to back-to-back trips to the AHL’s Calder Cup Final. When Bylsma was hired in late May to take over as head coach of the Kraken, it sparked immediate speculation about whether Campbell would join him in Seattle.

Indeed, Campbell will be making the move, breaking another barrier for women in hockey. Her promotion comes after Emily Engel-Natzke’s historic hiring by the Washington Capitals in 2022 as a video coach, making Engel-Natzke the first woman with a full-time assistant role in the NHL. Except for a short stint with the Malmo Redhawks in Sweden during the 2019-20 season, she hung up her skates in 2017.

The 32-year-old Rocanville, Saskatchewan native made history as the first full-time female assistant coach in the AHL when Coachella Valley hired her for its inaugural season. She also had a brief stint on the Kraken bench for a preseason game against Calgary last September.

Despite these strides, the NHL has lagged behind the NBA and NFL in having women as coaches on the bench. Campbell’s promotion to the Kraken is a significant step forward for the league.

The NHL is Working to Expand the Role of Women in Coaching

The NHL Coaches Association launched a Female Coaches Development Program in 2021 to expand the pool of qualified candidates.

Even before joining the league in 2021, the Kraken was at the forefront of providing opportunities for women in hockey operations. Alexandra Mandrycky, now assistant general manager, was one of the franchise’s first front-office hires in 2018 as director of hockey administration and played a crucial role in the search that led to the hiring of GM Ron Francis.

Namita Nandakumar, hired in 2020, is a senior analyst in hockey operations. Additionally, Hall of Famer Cammi Granato joined Seattle as a pro scout in 2019 before moving to the Vancouver Canucks as an assistant GM in 2022.

Alongside Campbell, the Kraken filled another coaching staff position by hiring Bob Woods as one of Dan Bylsma’s assistants. Woods, who had been an assistant with Minnesota since 2017, was let go when Dean Evason was fired early last season.

The rest of the coaching staff includes assistant coach Dave Lowry, goaltending coach Steve Briere, video coach Tim Ohashi, and video assistant Brady Morgan.




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