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Jessica Campbell becomes first female coach in NHL history

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Two years ago, the Coachella Valley Firebirds hired Jessica Campbell as assistant coach, making her the first female coach in AHL history. Now, she has broken the glass ceiling again.

The Seattle Kraken have named Campbell assistant coach, making her the first woman to coach in NHL history. In both cases, she was named to the staff by head coach Dan Bylsma, who is effusive in his praise for her work.

“During our tenure in Coachella Valley, I saw firsthand Jessica’s commitment to player development,” said Bylsma. “Her ability to establish relationships with her players, specifically Tye Kartye, Shane Wright and Ryker Evans, was an important factor in this hire. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her at the NHL level.”

Anticipating the inevitable cries from certain quarters that she was selected for some kind of equal-opportunities agenda, Kraken GM Ron Francis said, “We didn’t hire her because she’s female, we hired her because we thought she’s a good coach. She has an interesting background with not only skating, but skill development, and that’s been a big part of what they’ve been able to do with Coachella Valley.”

Jessica Campbell began her hockey career as a child playing with and against boys in her hometown of Rocanville, Saskatchewan, where girls hockey wasn’t an option at the time. She went on to play four seasons at Cornell University, and then professionally for Calgary and then Malmo in Sweden. She was also part of the silver-medal winning Canada team at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

When her playing career wound down, Campbell started working as a skating and skills coach, which launched her coaching career. Having spent time behind the bench at Malmo, Tri-City in the US, and Nurnberg in Germany, she is known as a skilled coach who is respected by all her players.

I grew up as a young player dreaming of playing in the NHL because that’s all I knew,” said Campbell. “I never imagined being able to coach at this level. It’s just putting my head down, doing the work, and where it takes me, it takes me. I’m obviously honored to be on this path and continuing to just do the good work that it takes to hopefully reach that goal.”

Campbell will join the staff of Kraken head coach Dan Bylsma, who replaces Dave Hakstol after he was fired following three lacklustre season. Bylsma has previously coached the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres.

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