Jessica Campbell [600x400]
Jessica Campbell [600x400] (Credit: Courtesy of the Seattle Kraken)

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SEATTLE -- The Seattle Kraken have hired Jessica Campbell as an assistant coach, making her the first woman behind a bench in NHL history.

This is the second time Campbell has made history. In 2022, the Kraken hired her as an assistant coach for their AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, where she became the first woman behind a bench in the AHL.

In her time with the Firebirds, Campbell coached the team's forwards and power-play unit was instrumental in the team reaching the Calder Cup Final where they lost to the Hershey Bears for the second consecutive season.

Back in May, the Kraken hired Firebirds head coach Dan Bylsma to replace Dave Hakstol, who was fired after three seasons. Bylsma, who previously coached the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, said at his introductory news conference that Campbell's name was in discussion for a similar role at the NHL level.

"Obviously now with the last couple of weeks, part of the conversations with [Kraken general manager Ron Francis] about our staff and coaches and what we think the team and the players need," Bylsma told ESPN after his news conference. "That is an ongoing process right now ... Jessica and [Firebirds assistant Stu Bickel] have been part of those conversations."

In addition to Campbell, the Kraken also hired former longtime Minnesota Wild assistant coach Bob Woods. The Kraken needed an assistant who could oversee their defense and penalty kill with Jay Leach leaving to join the Boston Bruins. Leach was previous the head coach of the Bruins' AHL affiliate. Woods was with the Wild for six-plus seasons. He implemented a defensive structure that ranked 13th in goals allowed per game during his time with the club before he was dismissed when they also fired Dean Evason last November.

Hiring Bylsma along with Campbell and Woods comes in what has become an active offseason for the Kraken. They were a win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals in the 2022-23 season only to then miss the playoffs in 2023-24 after finishing 17 points adrift of the final wild-card spot.

It began with them firing Hakstol along with assistant coach Paul McFarland, who oversaw the Kraken's forwards and power-play unit. The Kraken went from having the NHL's second-best shooting percentage and tied for the fourth-most goals per game in 2022-23 to finishing with the fourth-worst in shooting percentage and goals per game in 2023-24.

On Monday, they addressed those needs by signing former Florida Panthers puck-moving defenseman Brandon Montour to a seven-year contract worth $7.142 million annually while giving former Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson a seven-year deal worth $6.25 million annually.

They join a group that features veterans such as Oliver Bjorkstrand, Andre Burakovsky, Vince Dunn, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, Jared McCann and Jaden Schwartz in addition to homegrown talents in Matty Beniers, Ryker Evans and Tye Kartye.

Evans and Kartye are among the players who worked with Campbell during her time in the AHL. Her first season saw the Firebirds finish third in the AHL with 257 goals while their power-play unit was 14th. Her second season saw the Firebirds lead the league with 252 goals while their power-play unit once again finished 14th.

Firebirds director of business and hockey operations Troy Bodie told ESPN last year that Campbell made an impact with players during her first season.

He said Campbell "really took it upon herself" to have meaningful conversations with players. He also said that Campbell often spent significant time with players before and practices in different areas they wanted to develop.

"Before practices, she'd have half-hour skill sessions that would have 90% participation," Bodie said. "I was shocked because there's usually never that much participation for an optional skills practice."

Campbell played four seasons at Cornell, where she captained the Big Red in her senior year. She played professional in Canada for three seasons and for one season in Sweden. Her coaching career started in 2017-18, when she was an assistant coach for the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy before eventually spending a year as a skating coach in Sweden.

In 2021-22, she was an assistant coach and a skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers in the Deutsche Eishockey League in Germany. She was also an assistant for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men's World Championship, where she became the first woman on the coaching staff of a men's national team.

"She has an interesting background not only with skating, but skill development," Francis said after Bylsma's news conference. "That's been a big part of what they've been able to do with Coachella Valley. She runs the power play, works with the forwards, and works with everybody's on helping improve their skating, their skill development and, as Dan said, both her and Stu Bickel have been a big part of their success down there."