Seattle Kraken's new assistant coach makes NHL history

The Seattle Kraken have hired Jessica Campbell as an assistant coach under new head coach Dan Bylsma, becoming the first woman to become a full-time assistant coach in the NHL.

Campbell follows Bylsma to Seattle after spending two years together working with their AHL team in Coachella Valley. The team made the announcement on Wednesday morning with development camp for Kraken prospects currently underway in Seattle.

The Kraken also announced they hired Bob Woods who has served as an assistant in the NHL for 13 seasons.

"This is an important day for our organization," Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. "We’re bringing in valuable coaching experience to our staff and are confident that both Bob and Jessica will make an immediate impact for our team."

The Kraken had two assistant coaching vacancies to fill on Bylsma's staff as Paul McFarland was not retained, and Jay Leach left the team to join the Boston Bruins' coaching staff. Dave Lowry and goaltending coach Steve Briere remain as holdovers from Dave Hakstol's coaching staff in Seattle. Video coach Tim Ohashi and video assistant Brady Morgan also remain with the staff.

"During our tenure in Coachella Valley, I saw firsthand Jessica’s commitment to player development," Bylsma said in a statement. "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."


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Campbell did spend one preseason game on the bench with the Kraken last fall, becoming the second woman to serve in that capacity. Kori Cheverie – the head coach of the PWHL Montreal franchise – served as a guest coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins for a preseason game last fall as well. Campbell was a part of the bench in Seattle with Bylsma while the Kraken played split-squad preseason games against the Calgary Flames. Hakstol and the Seattle coaching staff were with the group that traveled to Calgary.

When the Kraken hired Campbell to coach in Coachella Valley, she became the first woman to be an assistant coach in the American Hockey League. She previously served as an assistant coach for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship, also becoming the first woman to coach at that tournament.

Emily Engel-Natzke was hired by the Washington Capitals as the first woman in the role of video coordinator in June 2022, but Campbell will be the first to be in a bench role in the NHL.

Campbell played for four years in college for Cornell University, including an appearance in the 2011 Frozen Four where they lost to Boston University in the semifinals. Campbell would play professionally for the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and for the Malmo Redhawks of the Swedish Women’s Hockey League. She also played for Team Canada in the IIHF World Championship in 2015, appearing in five games.

Seattle Kraken new assistant coach Jessica Campbell, left, speaks, as Kraken head coach Dan Bylsma listens during an NHL hockey press conference Wednesday, July 3, 2024, in Seattle. Campbell will become the first woman to work on the bench of an NHL (Jason Redmond / Associated Press)

Campbell transitioned to coaching and made an impression working with NHL players during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kelowna, British Columbia. Campbell has spent two seasons coaching with Bylsma for the Firebirds and will now join him full-time with the Kraken.

"The job she’s done is the reason why we hired her. We didn’t hire her because she was female. We hired her because she was a good coach," general manager Ron Francis said of Campbell in May. "She has an interesting background, not only skating but skill development and that’s a big part of what they’ve been able to do at Coachella Valley."

Woods has spent 13 years as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Washington Capitals (2009-12), Anaheim Ducks (2016-17), Buffalo Sabres (2016-17) and Minnesota Wild (2017-24). Woods served with Bylsma on his coaching staff in Buffalo. He's also served as a general manager, head coach, and assistant coach in stops in the AHL, ECHL and WHL.

"After spending a season together in Buffalo, I’m excited to be reunited with Bob here in Seattle," Bylsma said in a statement. "Bob’s resume speaks for itself – he has worked with some of the NHL’s top defensemen in Washington, Minnesota and Anaheim, and I know he will bring valuable experience to our locker room."

Woods' role will focus on running the Kraken's power play units with Campbell providing assistance.


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