Commentary: Kraken's historic hire of Jessica Campbell was the correct one

There’s nothing that makes me more upset than anyone who reacts to a groundbreaking story — sports or otherwise — with assumptions and stereotypes.

Inevitably, that was the case with the most significant local headline of the week.

Jessica Campbell is now the first full-time female assistant coach in NHL history. She joins new Kraken coach Dan Bylsma behind the bench at the highest level, after joining him two years ago in Coachella Valley, where she became the first full-time female assistant at that level, too.

The hire is historic. Remarkable. And most importantly: Absolutely appropriate and deserving. Full stop.

And yet, while the majority of reactions were positive, it took a couple glances on social media to witness the ignorant knee-jerk takes from the peanut gallery and those not in the know: the typical questions of whether Campbell actually earned this position. Obtuse rationalizations about this somehow being a product of Seattle being "woke." Completely discrediting someone who should be enjoying all the credit in the world.

For those unaware, this was anything but a token hire. And her five-year resume is really as far back as you need to go.

After all, Campbell didn’t even have thoughts of being an NHL coach when she started her own power skating business to train top athletes. But as she put it, the list of NHL players on her client list went from two guys, to 10 guys, to all of a sudden, 20–25 guys.

That’s business-building. That’s word of mouth. That’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Those NHL players actively chose to go to her and reaped the benefits — no one held a gun to their head.

Which is why she was on the German National Team bench as an assistant coach at the world championships two years ago. Which led to the opportunity in Coachella Valley, where she’s widely considered responsible for helping an undrafted player like Ty Kartye develop the skating skills needed to become a regular contributor at the NHL level.

Take the word "woman" out of the equation, and you have a well-regarded coach who — given that track record — we should be stoked about to be coaching the Kraken forwards and assisting on power play this upcoming season.

And by the way, when the news broke, you could tell no one wanted the limelight less than Campbell, who graciously answered questions, but did so as part of a joint press conference with the rest of the coaching staff. She’s clearly a team player whose unique position has her carrying a torch and new hopes for a demographic that’s never had an opportunity like this in the NHL.

"I think what’s special and what I’m excited about is whether it’s a young girl or young boy’s first NHL game, they’re not going to see anything different than what they can possibly become," Campbell said. "I’m happy to be able to play that role and picture that for the young kids."

And yes, it took this long to even get to her four-year college career as a player and captaining Team Canada to a Silver Medal in the 2015 World Championships.

Frankly, I look forward to the day when a hire like this is so normal that people aren’t questioning credentials just because it’s a woman. But for now, maybe we should take a page out of Billie Jean King’s book and celebrate how remarkable it is without foolish suspicion.

So, yeah, the Kraken have a good one, folks. And anyone who doesn’t believe it can take their "woke" and "token hire" thoughts right back to their living quarters in their parent’s basement if it makes them sleep better at night.


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