Jessica Campbell hired as first female assistant coach in AHL

Germany's assistant coach Jessica Campbell watches a screen behind players at the German bench during the group A Hockey World Championship match between France and Germany in Helsinki, Finland, Monday May 16, 2022. (Martin Meissner/AP)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The Coachella Valley Firebirds have hired the American Hockey League's first female assistant coach.

Jessica Campbell is ready for the opportunity.

"I've been spending a little bit more of my time on the development side the past three years and truly trying to create the opportunities and the growth for myself, and the knowledge to put myself in this position," Campbell said. "So I'm very excited to be able to bring that to Coachella."

Campbell, whose hiring was announced Tuesday, has spent the past year working with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL development program and she was an assistant coach with Germany at the IIHF men's world championships, becoming the first woman to coach at that event.

Coachella Valley is set to begin its first season this fall as the AHL affiliate for the Seattle Kraken.

"All signs and all indications of what we were looking for in a coach kind of led me to Jess and led to our conversations, and has led us to her being our first assistant coach," Coachella Valley coach Dan Bylsma said.

Bylsma was drawn to Campbell's background as a skating coach. He first reached out to Campbell in an email sent to a generic email address for Campbell's skating school.

Her first thought was, "Is this spam?"

"It was special because I was obviously in a position where I was looking for that next step," Campbell said.

Campbell, from Rocanville, Sask. also served as an assistant coach and skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

As a player, Campbell represented Canada at the under-18 world championships in 2009 and 2010.

She was the leading scorer with 15 points and tournament MVP at the 2010 tournament in Chicago while serving as Canada's captain. She scored the overtime winner in Canada's 5-4 win over the United States in the gold-medal game.

She also played five games with Canada's silver-medal squad at the 2015 women's world championship in Sweden.

Campbell played three seasons (2014-17) for the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), leading the team to a Clarkson Cup title in 2016. She scored twice in an 8-3 victory over Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the championship game.

"We think that (Campbell) brings a lot of good attributes to the position and we think that she can work with our young players and make them better, and we wouldn't have hired her if we didn't think she was capable of doing that," Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. "So we're excited that she's the first, but that's not why we hired her. We hired her because she's capable of doing the job and making us better."

Seattle had previously hired Hall of Famer Cammi Granato as one of its first pro scouts before the team ever took the ice.

— With files from The Canadian Press.

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