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Sask. woman makes NHL history behind the bench

Jessica Campbell behind the bench for the Seattle Kraken. (Courtesy: X/Seattle Kraken) Jessica Campbell behind the bench for the Seattle Kraken. (Courtesy: X/Seattle Kraken)

Rocanville's Jessica Campbell has been hired by the Seattle Kraken, making her the first woman to be hired as a full-time coach in the National Hockey League (NHL).

"Jessica and I spent the last two years coaching in Coachella Valley,” said Kraken Head Coach Dan Bylsma in a media release. “I’m confident of what she can do for our staff and bring to the players.”

Campbell already broke barriers when in 2022 she was hired as the assistant coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the minor league affiliate of the Kraken.

This move made her the first female behind the bench as a full-time coach in the American Hockey League (AHL).

“I’m so focused on my goals and coaching,” she told CTV News in September of 2023. “When you’re inside the bottle you don’t necessarily see what’s the perspective from the outside because I’m just so focused on making sure the work, the impact, and what I’m doing every day, my coaching approach is up to the par that I expect of myself.”

“She has the ability to relate to players about their games and what they bring to a team,” Bylsma said. “She’s demonstrated that over the last two seasons.”

“That’s why she is such an appealing candidate and why she’s joining our staff,” he added.

Campbell, 32, grew up playing for the Melville Prairie Fire in the Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey League before going to Cornell University (NCAA) from 2010 to 2014.

She also played for the Canadian Women’s National Team at the World Championships in 2015.

After her playing days ended, Campbell caught the attention of pro hockey coaching circles as an assistant coach for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men's World Championship while becoming the first woman on the coaching staff of a men's national team at the esteemed tournament.

She spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant and skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany. Her work in Europe and as a skating and skills guru came up frequently when Bylsma was calling contacts to fill out his first Firebirds coaching staff.

The Kraken open their regular season on Oct. 8 against St. Louis when Campbell will break the historic ground.

--With files from Brit Dort… Top Stories

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