Jessica Campbell has been hired by the Coachella Valley Firebirds as an assistant coach, making her the first woman behind a seat as a full-time coach in the AHL. A woman has never held that role in the NHL.
The Firebirds, the largest NHL affiliate in the Seattle Kraken, will debut as a team this fall.
“I always had a belief as a little girl, playing boys hockey until the age of 17, that I was equal and capable too. I never focused on my gender,” Campbell told ESPN. “Growing up, I never dreamed of training, because I didn’t see it, and so I didn’t know what that path looked like. But for the young athletes now, it’s very important that they have that vision so that they understand that they can literally be anything they want. Some of the guys I’m going to coach. , their daughters can now watch and they have a female trainer. This opens up the conversation, which can inspire young girls to do something they may not have seen possible.”
It’s shaping up to be a massive event for women in operational hockey roles. Cammi Granato, Emilie Castonguay (Vancouver Canucks) and Meghan Hunter (Chicago Blackhawks) were recently appointed as Assistant General Managers. Emily Engel-Natzky was promoted to video coordinator at Washington Capitals last week, becoming the first full-time coaching employee in the NHL.
Campbell, 30, spent last season as assistant coach and skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers in Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, and graduated as assistant coach for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship – becoming the first woman on the men’s national team coaching staff in the event.
During that time, Firebirds coach Dan Belsma – Knowing that he needs to fill out a staff – Connect with colleagues for potential candidates. Campbell’s name kept coming up.
Bilsma said Campbell has received “rave reviews” from her work at the world championships, but has had difficulty communicating.
So in June, he emailed blindly through his personal website with the subject line: “Internship Inquiry” and wrote, “I would like to have a conversation about the possibility of getting a coach position.”
After calling on the phone, Bilsma was also impressed.
“Obviously, this is important, and it is important that Jessica gets this opportunity,” Bilsma told ESPN. “But most importantly, I wanted a coaching staff with a lot of passion for the players, a willingness to work with them, and a plan to help them develop, because our job is to develop the players for the Seattle Kraken. We just wanted that person, and Jessica was the best example of that. That’s what revolve around it.”
Campbell is a native of Rocanville, Saskatchewan. She is a former captain at Cornell University and played for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Canadian National Team before retiring as a player and shifting her focus to coaching skills and strength skating.
She was starting her own business when COVID-19 hit. However, she did manage to make it to a skating rink in Kelowna, British Columbia. When NHL players were scrambling to get fit for the 2020 bubble, Defensemen lok chin He called Campbell and asked if she would help him.
Soon, Campbell was running sessions and developing training sessions for nearly 20 NHL players, including New York Islanders forward Matt Barzal and then Blackhawks defenseman. Brent Seabrook.
“It was a challenge,” Campbell said. “But it was hard to realize that if I can do this and prepare these people, they are clearly getting something.”
Campbell spends her outdoor seasons in Chicago, working for the Tri-City Storm and USHL development program; She also leads programming for girls’ hockey Windy City Storm.
Campbell has been involved in the NHL Coaches Association’s Mentoring Program for the past two years. She says she takes pride in listening to players and helping them reach their individual goals through clear and detailed communication.