The first puck has yet to drop at Acrisure Arena, but the Coachella Valley Firebirds are already making history: Jessica Campbell has been named the first assistant coach and is the first female in this role in the American Hockey League. She brings years of experience on the ice as a coach and player.
"There's a lot worse place to live in the world than Palm Springs," Campbell told News Channel 3 in an interview just hours after the announcement that she would join the Firebirds. "I'm very excited. The small-town Canadian kid in me is definitely they're excited to be part of that community."
Campbell continued to share her excitement in working to grow the first-year fanbase, saying "I'm excited to be able to support that growth and to position our players and our team to be leaders in the community and to be people in the community that fans want to come out and celebrate."
The Coachella Valley @Firebirds have named Jessica Campbell (@boof_campbell) as the first-ever assistant coach in franchise history!— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 5, 2022
Learn more about the first female @TheAHL assistant coach → https://t.co/PdKKemdO4u pic.twitter.com/9wueDGEh3F
"I am thrilled to join the Kraken organization and work with Dan and his staff for the inaugural season of Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey,” Campbell said in a news release sent to News Channel 3. She thanked the players and coaches she's worked with in the past.
As News Channel 3 reported, Dan Bylsma was named head coach last month. Bylsma said in a statement, “Jessica’s skill and talent for developing players who understand all aspects of the game and what it takes to be successful on and off the ice is her strength.”
"I think that's what's most exciting about the opportunities for visibility for young girls and boys to be honest to be able to, to see it, and now they can believe in it," Jessica said. "I never saw a female coach so I never dreamt of being a coach. Maybe I maybe got asked that dream would have been different as a young kid."
Inaugural year ahead
Bylsma said in a statement, “She has a passion for developing all aspects of the game and creating players with impact. We are focused on building a culture of impact, skill, and tenacity for both the Coachella Valley Firebirds and the Seattle Kraken and know Jessica’s talent will help us establish that culture in our inaugural year.”
Campbell is excited to join the team as they begin to grow. "Having the opportunity to help build a culture and team from the beginning is something that doesn’t come around often and I’m really looking forward to getting started at Development Camp.”
The Coachella Valley Firebirds have named Jessica Campbell their first assistant coach in team history.— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) July 5, 2022
With the @Firebirds' inaugural season this fall, Campbell will be breaking barriers as the first female assistant coach in the American Hockey League! pic.twitter.com/ubogUsqdF2
Campbell is bringing decades of experience to the ice in Coachella Valley.
Please welcome to the team, Jessica Campbell, our new assistant coach! Learn more about Jessica here --> https://t.co/15ikUSd1Co@boof_campbell #AssistantCoach #BuildingATeam #WomenInHockey #IgniteTheSeason #BuildingAnOasis #OneValley #Firebirds #CoachellaValley #AHL #Hockey pic.twitter.com/fGjBigYix4— Coachella Valley Firebirds (@Firebirds) July 5, 2022
“We’re very excited to welcome Jessica to the Kraken organization as a coach with the Coachella Valley Firebirds,” said Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis in a statement. “She played the game at a high level. That experience along with her knowledge of the game, and her ability to communicate and teach will assist the development of our prospects in the American Hockey League.”
Campbell served as an assistant coach for Germany at the 2022 IIHF Men's World Championship, becoming the first woman to join the coaching staff of a national team participating in the World Championship. This past season, Campbell worked with the Tri-City Storm, USHL development program, actively led the Windy City Storm Girl's Hockey program in Chicago, and also served as an assistant coach and skills coach for the Nurnberg Ice Tigers in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL).As a player, the Rocanville, Saskatchewan native represented Canada in two Under-18 World Junior Championships, serving as captain at the 2010 event, scoring the gold medal-winning goal, and earning tournament MVP. She also played five games for Canada at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. Campbell played three seasons (2014-15 - 2016-17) for the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), winning the Clarkson Cup in 2016. Prior to playing professionally, Campbell skated four years (2010-11 - 2013-14) at Cornell University, serving as captain in her senior season.Coachella Valley Firebirds
What's ahead for the team
The Coachella Valley Firebirds plan to play their first game this fall. The team is the 32nd AHL team and the affiliate of the NHL Seattle Kraken.
The team will play its inaugural season at Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms later this year. It's still under construction.
While the team waits for its home to be ready, they will likely kick off their inaugural season in Seattle.
Acrisure Arena, the $300 million, 10,000-seat arena is being built next to the Classic Club Golf Course just north of the Cook St. Interstate 10 exit.
Officials broke ground on the arena in June 2021. Construction is expected to be complete in late 2022.
Arena officials have previously said the arena will host AHL hockey games, concerts, conventions, UFC, boxing, and WWE events.