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Boy band takes a shot at Don Cherry and hockey violence

Ah, the Great Canadian Cliché:

A hockey net in the driveway, kids racing home from school, the music turned up too high …

But wait, what is that music?

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Rock 'em, sock 'em, so says Don,

He's making millions but my brains are gone.

Take a stand, do what's right.

Boom Boom - out go the lights!

Welcome to the home of the Dubé brothers, Canada's youngest rock band, and the latest voice, even if none of the three has yet dropped, to join the chorus crying out for National Hockey League action on head shots.

Liam Dubé is 13, already a "retired" competitive hockey player. Brothers Jan, 12, and Quinn, 10, are also hockey fans. All three are outraged by what they have seen this winter as the likes of Sidney Crosby go down for months with concussion.

These are not kids without influence. When the three brothers - Liam on guitar, Jan on bass, Quinn on drums - set out to raise money for Haiti earthquake victims, they held concerts and did street busking in the Ottawa market until they had $106,300. They were a sensation and helped close out the Ottawa Bluesfest last summer. They were joined in the street for an impromptu jam by Arcade Fire, the Montreal group that won album of the year at the 2011 Grammy Awards. The brothers can be found all over YouTube with cover versions of works by Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana.

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They come by their music naturally. Grandmother Cathy Dubé plays piano, accordion and sings. Father Rob plays numerous instruments ("I'm a hack."). They began performing a few years back when their late mother, Michelle, was ill with cancer. The musical videos they left her with during the school day seemed to help inspire her and, since then, they have tried to use their music only for good causes. Their first fundraising effort was to help fight breast cancer. Then, when they heard that so many Haitian children had lost parents, just as they had, they turned their attention to that cause with the support of Rob and stepmother Christine.

"I'm not a stage dad," protests Rob, a federal civil servant. "This is all them. We never thought this would ever become something big."

To try to bring children's attention to the dangers of hits to the head in hockey, they took an old hit by Pat Travers, Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights), and tweaked the words in a fashion that directly takes on Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL.

Down at the schoolyard, we're told it ain't right.

But home on the TV every Saturday night.

They're throwin' headshots and gettin' in fights.

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Boom Boom - out go the lights.

You throw your hands up and say it's part of the game,

Like offside or icing but it's damaging brains.

Until Mr. Bettman does what's right.

Boom Boom - out go the lights.

They may be children, but they say in their own short lives, attitudes have changed, and professional hockey has failed to keep up. Liam - the one with the Justin Bieber hair - was once a good young player whose hockey hero was Scott Stevens, the New Jersey Devils' defenceman famous for NHL-legal head shots to the likes of Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya that left the stars severely concussed.

"I used to try making open-ice hits," Liam says, "even though there was no contact allowed."

He remembers how the coach drilled into them: "Keep your head up!" And yet, he also knows that something along the way changed. "Back then," he says, referring all the way back to 2003, "it wasn't the guy doing the hitting who got blamed, it was the guy who got hit with his head down."

The Dubé brothers loved hockey to the point where they had the NHL game on PlayStation 3 and had memorized dialogue from the movie Slap Shot. They owned Cherry's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em DVDs and loved them, but no more.

"Some kids grow up thinking you either have to hit guys in the head or else fight to be in the NHL," Jan says.

"It's not a good example for kids to follow," Liam adds. "The NHL should be doing something about it, because now we know what it's doing to players."

"It's really simple," says Quinn, the youngest of the three, "in our schoolyard if we do this" - he reaches and lightly cuffs a brother's arm - "you get a note. Get three, you get suspended." He cannot comprehend the NHL argument that it is complicated. In his view, a hit to the head and you are gone, no excuses allowed.

As for Don Cherry, once their hero, they look to him to come around on all hits to the head, accidental or not, as well.

"People can change," Liam says. "I think he's more aware now. We're not trying to get on his bad side, but if we do, well, all we want to do is raise awareness."

Take a stand, do what's right.

Boom Boom - out go the lights!

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About the Author

Roy MacGregor was born in the small village of Whitney, Ont., in 1948. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2002, he worked for the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, Maclean's magazine (three separate times), the Toronto Star and The Canadian Magazine. More

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