Campbell Becomes First Female Coach in NHL, Named Kraken Assistant

Bylsma, who won the Stanley Cup in 2009 as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said he has been impressed with Campbell’s work ethic and her ability to help young talent develop. He cited forwards Tye Kartye and Shane Wright and defenseman Ryker Evans as examples.

Kartye turned heads after being called up during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season, the undrafted forward had 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 77 regular-season games. Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, had four goals in eight NHL games this season. Evans, 22, played in his first 36 NHL games last season and had nine points (one goal, eight assists).

“The work with Tye Kartye and Shane Wright and Ryker Evans over the last two years has been really evident,” Bylsma said. “She’s been able to develop those players, develop them as people and more importantly as hockey players. Jess is going to be working with the forwards and I’m super excited about that.”

Campbell will also work on the power play, and will help veteran assistant Bob Woods, who was also hired Wednesday. The 56-year-old has been an NHL assistant for the Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres.

“With Jess helping me with this, she’s going to be great,” Woods said. “I’ve only known her a couple days, but she’s good, she’s really good. And she’s going to be very helpful to me.”

Seattle general manager Ron Francis first became aware of Campbell when she was an assistant coach for the men’s national team in Germany. A former NHL teammate, Tom Rowe, was also involved with the German program and recommended Campbell as someone who could teach skills and help behind a bench.

Francis seized the opportunity and hired her for Coachella Valley, keeping a close eye on how she handled the added responsibility and pressure.

To say he was impressed would be an understatement.

“I’ve had a chance to see her work over the years,” Francis said. “Probably not something she liked, but I sat in on a couple of power play meetings that she presented, just to get a sense of how it went. And you know, she has a really good knowledge of the game, and also a really good skill set in the development side. So I think the staff complements each other. And I think Dan has done a good job of bringing it all together. We’re excited to see what it holds for us going forward.”

Campbell played four seasons of NCAA hockey for Cornell, then played professionally in Canada and Sweden. She eventually became a skating and skills coach, building a client base that included several NHL players.

Then she started thinking about coaching. She wasn’t sure how it would happen, but she also believed intrinsically that it was a possibility to reach this level.

Now she’s here and she’s ready to seize the opportunity.

“Just believing that anything is possible,” Campbell said. “Maybe in a naive way, I had the courage to believe that this could be possible. Even though I didn’t see it, I believed that I could do it. And I think with that inner belief, whatever it is, in sports, in life, you can create anything that you believe in.

“I think what’s special and what I’m excited about here in Seattle, whether it’s a young girl’s or a young boy’s first NHL game, they’ll never see anything less than what they can potentially become. And I’m happy to be able to play that role and represent that for the young kids.”

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