The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Off the ice and into the pit

By in Culture
Luke Brisebois (right) jamming with Weak Ends.

Three summers ago, Luke Brisebois gave his friend Dan Smolinski an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I asked Dan if he wanted to start a band,” Brisebois said.

Well, actually, it was an offer that Smolinski could have easily refused — Brisebois couldn’t play any instruments and didn’t know how to sing.

“If you want to start a band, you can teach me how to play. I’ve always wanted to do that,” Brisebois told Smolinski.

Smolinski was indifferent. He hadn’t played much since his former band, Shackleford, stopped performing in 2004.

“I really didn’t want to play music,” Smolinski said, “but because he wanted to, I said, ‘Well, I guess I can show you because I did it for a few years.’ ”

The two started a punk rock group called Lady Deathstryke and Brisebois’ eagerness to learn quickly transferred to Smolinski.

“I guess it’s just when you play for so long you lose the energy and you miss your firsts — your first time playing with your band, your first time playing a show,” Smolinski, Lady Deathstryke’s lead singer, said. “It was fun to watch him be able to go through all of that. That’s what I enjoy most about it.”

Brisebois, 25, grew up playing elite hockey and has only recently had the opportunity to focus on music.

Brisebois played midget AAA hockey with the Saskatoon Blazers and proved he was one of the top players in the country: He was selected to represent Western Canada at the 2004 under-17 World Hockey Challenge.

He spent three seasons in Wilcox, Sask. playing junior hockey with the Notre Dame Hounds before moving to Purchase, N.Y. in 2007 to play for the Manhattanville Valiants in the NCAA.

Brisebois said he played the best hockey he’s ever played with the Valiants but that the school wasn’t what he was looking for academically.

“I wanted to take engineering and they didn’t have it. I found of all the courses I was in I was more interested in science and math, and it was a liberal arts school.”

He decided to move back to Saskatoon to pursue an engineering degree after only one year with the Valiants.

Luke Brisebois
Canadian Interuniversity Sport rules state that when a player transfers schools, they must wait one full year before joining another team. Brisebois spent the year in the College of Engineering before he began skating with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the fall of 2009.

After just two exhibition games and before that year’s final roster had been set, however, Brisebois injured his knee and was told he would be unable to play hockey for a few months. The Huskies told him he could come back after Christmas to try out for the team again but Brisebois decided it was best to pursue his degree.

“I love the game of hockey and I’ve made a lot of my lifelong friends from it,” Brisebois said, but “I just wanted to continue my education and hockey wasn’t really going to jive anymore.”

Brisebois approached Smolinski only a few months after he decided to stop playing hockey competitively.

“Even when I was playing hockey, there was a group of us, we were always into punk rock and heavier music,” Brisebois said, but “I never really pictured myself playing until I finally decided to start Lady Deathstryke with Dan.”

Brisebois currently plays bass in both Lady Deathstryke and another local punk group, Weak Ends.

Colin McGuirk McNeil, the drummer for Weak Ends, said that Brisebois was the driving force behind his own involvement in the group.

Brisebois asked McGuirk McNeil three times to join the group, then called Memphis Bells, but McGuirk McNeil was busy with other projects. When the Memphis Bells were struggling to find a drummer only one week before a gig, McGuirk McNeil agreed to fill in.

“I was a little skeptical in the beginning but I gave it a try, did a fill-in show and was pretty comfortable with it,” McGuirk McNeil said. “I liked what they were doing so we changed the band name and threw out a bunch of new songs.”

Brisebois said even though Weak Ends have been together for less than a year, they have been working hard to play as much as possible.

“We toured out to Montreal this spring. We played between 10 and 12 shows on tour and then we’ve obviously played a lot of local shows,” he said. “I’m just lucky even to be able to play music, and to be able to play music where someone will actually come and listen to you is pretty amazing.”

Weak Ends will open for hardcore heavyweights Gallows at Louis’ on Nov. 19. Gallows, based out of Watford, England, are fronted by former Alexisonfire guitarist and vocalist Wade MacNeil.

Photos: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf

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