NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk Admirals have announced a new affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets and the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose.

Despite the two cities being nearly 1,750 miles apart, officials with both the Admirals and Winnipeg believe this will be a beneficial partnership for both teams. Winnipeg has reached the NHL postseason in five of the past six seasons, but it’s the first time since the 2020-2021 season the NHL team will have an ECHL affiliate. For four seasons before that, Winnipeg’s ECHL affiliate was the Jacksonville Icemen.

The Admirals had spent the past two seasons affiliated with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, but that agreement ended this summer when the AHL’s Wolves decided to operate as an independent team.

Since the Admirals returned to the ECHL in 2015, they have been affiliated with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes. They have also operated as an independent team.

“We are excited to begin our partnership with the Norfolk Admirals,” said Craig Heisinger, senior vice president and director of hockey operations/assistant general manager of the Winnipeg Jets in a statement. “The city of Norfolk and the Admirals franchise have a rich hockey history and we look forward to the opportunity that this affiliation will provide for our prospects.”

The Admirals, who finished last in the East Coast Hockey League’s North Division with a 21-46-2-3 record and 47 points, have signed 17 players since late June and extended qualifying offers to four others, and team president Billy Johnson was the 2022-2023 ECHL executive of the year.

The team touted a 40% increase in paid attendance over the previous season and had six of the top 10 all-time Friday/Saturday gross ticket revenues since the team was formed in 1989, which includes the 15 seasons the Admirals played in the American Hockey League.

The team also launched the City Series, in which it played games representing each of the seven Hampton Roads cities, and it hosted the ECHL All-Star Classic last season.

“Last year, our organization made a concerted, positive transformation to our on and off-ice product that our incredible city and fanbase has been desperate for,” said Admirals general manager and head coach Jeff Carr in a statement. “This affiliation helps us build a solid base as we continue to ascend into our new culture.”

The Winnipeg Jets were originally founded in 1972 and joined the World Hockey Association in 1979, later joining the NHL as part of a merger with the WHA. In 1996, the Jets were sold to Phoenix businessman Jerry Colangelo and moved to Arizona.

The newest iteration of the Jets was born as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. The Thrashers spent 11 years in Atlanta before that franchise relocated to Winnipeg and was renamed the Jets, again.

The Jets have been a consistent playoff team in recent seasons, making the NHL playoffs in five of the past six seasons, last season finishing with a 46-33-3 regular season record and 95 points, falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs.

“Winnipeg’s dedication to winning and development is no secret in the hockey world,” Carr said. “With the depth that Winnipeg has and their view on development, they’re going to be very involved with our roster. We both feel that joining forces together with the goals of character, winning, and development will outweigh any obstacles of geographical distance.”

Norfolk forward Todd Burgess played 35 games for Manitoba in 2021-2022 while recording 13 points, and nine players from the Admirals played in AHL games last season, including defenseman Xavier Bouchard, who was in uniform for 22 games with Milwaukee.

The AHL’s Manitoba Moose, founded in 1994 as a franchise in St. Paul, Minnesota, have made the Calder Cup playoffs for the past two seasons, going 37-25-6-4 during the 2022-2023 regular season, falling to the Milwaukee Admirals in the first round of the playoffs.

The Moose played in Manitoba from 1996 until 2011, and after four years in St. John’s, returned to Manitoba and have been in the AHL since 2015.

The Moose were founded in 1994 and played their first two seasons as a franchise in St. Paul, Minnesota. From 1996 to 2011, they played in Manitoba, winning two division titles and one conference championship (2008-09). After a four-year stint in St. John’s, the club returned to Manitoba and have been in the American Hockey League since 2015.

The Admirals history in Norfolk dates back to the spring of 1989, when Blake Cullen purchased an ECHL franchise to be located in Norfolk, and had been affiliated with the Washington Capitals. They were an ECHL franchise until 2000, when it was granted admission into the AHL as an expansion franchise. In the AHL, it had affiliations with the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Anaheim Ducks.

The Norfolk Admirals open the 2023-2024 season Oct. 20 when they play at the Savannah Ghost Pirates. Their home opener is 7 p.m. Oct. 25 against the Worcester Railers.

The City Series will also return for 12 games, playing as the Hampton Admirals (Nov. 3-4), Newport News Admirals (Dec. 8-9), Portsmouth Admirals (Jan. 5-6), Suffolk Admirals (Feb. 9-10), Chesapeake Admirals (March 1-2) and the Virginia Beach Admirals (April 5-6).