BELOW: FROM THE SPORTSWRAP VAULT: Blake Cullen sells Norfolk Admirals

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The man who brought the Admirals to Norfolk has died.

Blake Cullen, “the father of Admirals hockey,” is credited not only for helping to revitalize Norfolk’s downtown, but for kickstarting the boom of hockey in the South. He was 85.

“Mr. Cullen set a high standard for the Admirals organization, which I am keenly aware and protective of,” said Admirals CEO Patrick Cavanagh. We mourn his passing and reflect on the incredible impact he has had on the Hampton Roads community.”

Cullen’s death was first reported by The Virginian-Pilot, which shared in 2014 that Cullen had suffered a major stroke in 2011 that caused him to struggle in his later years.

The Chicago native purchased the expansion franchise for the 1988-89 season after seeing a photo of Norfolk native and boxing legend Sweetpea Whitaker on the cover of “Sports Illustrated.”

The team took off in the ECHL under head coach John Brophy, winning league championships and drawing capacity crowds at Scope Arena. Those fans would in turn pack local bars and restaurants, leading to a rebirth along Granby Street.

“I’ve had the highest respect for him since I became a member of the Admirals organization. I played the game for that man and this organization,” said Admirals Head Coach Rod Taylor. “He made it much more than playing a hockey game, he made it about family. He will be greatly missed.”