The Coachella Valley Firebirds are making history with the hire of assistant coach Jessica Campbell. Campbell is set to become the first woman to ever coach behind an AHL bench, according to a story on Tuesday morning from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. Campbell was most recently an assistant coach for the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga. It’s a great day in hockey when these barriers can finally start coming down, even if it is long overdue. Campbell herself is quoted in Kaplan’s story talking about the hope that this “inspires young girls for something they might not have seen as possible.”
In addition to the importance of this hire, it also looks like just a really great hire by the Firebirds. Campbell was the captain of her college hockey team at Cornell University and went on to play for the Calgary Inferno in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Campbell, a forward, amassed 17 goals and 16 assists for a total of 33 points in 42 career games. Of those 16 assists, 13 were primary assist — so she knows a thing or two about generating offense. Her efforts earned her a spot as one of two captains in the 2014 CWHL All-Star Game.
(Sidenote: Huge thanks to Mike Murphy’s Their Hockey Counts, an invaluable statistics website for all women’s sports data.)
Campbell’s coaching career has taken off in Germany primarily, where she was behind the bench for the German National Team at the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championships. There, she worked with the likes of Tim Stützle, 2022 Rookie of the Year Moritz Seider, and even Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer. But she’s had plenty of experience coaching up NHL players in North America as well. Kaplan’s story casually notes that she worked with around 20 NHL players before the 2020 bubble playoffs, including Mat Barzal and Brent Seabrook.
All in all, this seems like a great hire by Dan Bylsma, and one we can’t wait to see get to work.