Young hockey enthusiasts from Ridgefield - including those who want to eventually play for the pros - can now skate their way towards success under the tutelage of real players. The Ridgefield Amateur Hockey Association has merged with the Danbury Hat Tricks to offer a veritable hockey home for children to grow up in. It is the only place in the country where a player can start the sport at age 5 and stay with the same program into the pros. Herm Sorcher, president of the Danbury Hat Tricks, is pleased to partner with the Ridgefield Lions, which allows boys and girls a chance to hit the ice the same year they start kindergarten. "Our partnership with the Ridgefield Lions we see as a tremendous opportunity for growth," he said. "It gives our organizations a chance to combine to build something very special that could take the youth hockey programs to the next level." The new partnership will include exclusive camps, clinics, professional youth coaches and unique player-family experiences with professional players from the Federal Prospects Hockey League, according to the Danbury Ice Arena's website. The arena's general manager Nick Garofalo noted some advantages of the merger. "Not only is it helpful with the brand recognition, but it allows for us to build on the successes of the Hat Trick program," he said. "So when our pro team has success, we can carry it through to the lower levels." "Ultimately, if you're a new skater and you're staring off in your youth, you have the opportunity to play hockey throughout your whole career," he added. "We've created the whole full stream of development." The Ridgefield program has five divisions: the "Mites" (ages 5 to 8); the "Squirts" (up to age 10); the "Peewees" (up to age 12); and the "Bantams" (up to age 14). The "Midgets" include high school-age players. RAHA President Eric Presbrey's three children have all been in skates since age 3. His daughter, Lulu, is one of the many girls in the program. "We offer co-ed teams at every level, encouraging all girls and boys to compete together," he said. "The partnership with the Hat Ticks ... opens up so many opportunities for families in the area to get into the game and all it has to offer." The arena is home to a wide variety of groups. At the professional level, along with the Hat Tricks, is the Connecticut Whale, a professional women's ice hockey team in the Premier Hockey Federation. "I don't think many arenas in the country can say they offer ... both men and women professionals," Garofalo said. Along with Western Connecticut State University, several area high schools and youth programs play out of the facility. It also offers adult hockey league play, speed and figure skating, a recreational arcade and will soon have an axe-throwing bar. Garofalo noted that the nature of hockey invites an air of mentorship, which makes the partnership between RAHA and the Hat Tricks a win-win. "Not only is it a sport that's based off a team mentality, but it's a sport where you have a lot of leadership qualities develop," he said. "A lot of our higher-level players (coach) the youth programs ... because of the help that all these professional players have gotten. At one point or another they received that love from a coach." Presbrey anticipates great things from the partnership. "We're very excited to be able to connect Ridgefield and surrounding communities to a top youth sports program that will connect 5-year-olds with professional hockey players under one program," he said. "This gives every player the opportunity to truly realize their dream - whether that's simply fun with friends or playing college hockey on their way to the NHL one day."