By Tyler Penney 
BELLEVILLE – The Peterborough Timbermen  are one of six teams in a new winter lacrosse league that features top amateur talent.
The Arena Lacrosse League , which began play Jan. 7, is for players 18 and older and will use the rules of the professional National Lacrosse League , with the hope of one day becoming the NLL’s official minor league. Each team will play a total of 14 games in the regular season.
The Timbermen currently have a 0-4 record four weeks into the inaugural season.
The league features six franchises: the Oshawa Outlaws, Paris Riverwolves, Six Nations Snipers, St. Catharines Shockwave, Toronto Monarchs and the Timbermen.
Venues for games will include Oshawa’s Tribute Communities Centre, formerly know as GM Centre, the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena at Six Nations, the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, the Syl Apps Community Centre in Paris and the Peterborough Memorial Centre. The Timbermen will divide their home games at the Tribute Communities Centre and the Peterborough Memorial Centre, due to the latter being frequently in use for Peterborough Petes hockey games and concerts and other events.
“The purpose of the league was to provide some more opportunities for guys that may not be considered for the NLL, but still want to play at a high level,” said Lance Winn, vice-president of media and public relations for the ALL.
The league began with only six teams because it “gave us a chance to focus on those six teams,” Winn said. “When you get to eight or 12 teams, your resources are spread a little thinner than they would with six teams.”
Another league, Canadian Lacrosse League , which was for amateur players aged six to 20, announced last summer that after five seasons it was ceasing operations. Its departure allowed the ALL to have its inaugural season in Ontario, according to Winn.
“Initially, we were going to take this league down to the States. But with C-LAX folding, we thought maybe it would be best to give the opportunity to some of the guys up here.
“It allows them to play in a very competitive league that will give them exposure to the people that they need to be exposed to in order to make that jump to the next level.”
Although it’s only the first year, league executives are already brainstorming possible expansion locations. Barrie, Brampton and Whitby are among the possible sites for the second year, Winn said.
“The NLL is one of the only pro leagues that doesn’t have a farm system,” said Winn. “The ultimate goal is to have each NLL team having an ALL affiliate.”
People were skeptical about the new league at first, he said. “And that’s understandable, based on the number of lacrosse leagues that have come through and have not lasted. People are always going to be leery about it, but once they learn what the league’s about, it changed their perspective.”
He expects the fast-paced games and talented players in the league will attract increasing numbers of fans, he said.
“These guys are out here competing to possibly make that jump” to the pro league, said Winn. “The response has been very good. The players have been positive. The games have been intense. And we think the talent level is up there too. So we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.”
The Timbermen’s next game is Saturday against the Six Nations Snipers at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena.