By Madison Koekkoek
Cindy and Greg Krebs raised their four children to be best friends, to chase big dreams and to go after a life they loved in full.
For Maddison, the eldest of the close-knit quartet, it was music that filled her up. A budding country music artist, she got her start as part of the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts program with the Calgary Stampede and moved from home in ‘Nashville North’ to Nashville proper in 2018.
“I want to pursue [music] for the rest of my life and my parents were super encouraging of that.”
For the three boys, it was hockey that struck a chord.
Oldest brother Dakota is playing at the University of Calgary this year after a five-year WHL career, while youngest Dru is in what should be his sophomore season with the Medicine Hat Tigers were it not for COVID-19 restrictions.
And then there’s Peyton, a Team Canada mainstay over the last few years whose international résumé includes the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship and, of course, the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
For Peyton, the passion his parents encouraged centres around fun. “I play hockey because I love it. When I wake up in the morning it’s all I have on my mind and all I want to do.”
Greg and Cindy wanted their family to set its sights on big dreams and to know that, no matter where their journeys take them, they are supported.
“We created a culture in our house of being each other’s biggest fans and doing whatever it takes to help each other out,” says Greg.
The culture of big dreams started when the kids were young. Growing up in Okotoks, Alta., about 20 minutes south of Calgary, Greg and Cindy gifted their foursome with dream books one Christmas, something the two of them had practiced for years. Each Krebs was tasked with writing down 100 of their biggest dreams.
“If you don’t write it down, you don’t achieve it,” Greg says. “That’s our motto.”
The boys, he says, look up to Maddison for having checked off a number of the dreams she made note of at a young age. Did Peyton’s book include a dream of playing at the World Juniors?
“If it’s not in his book, it’s definitely written somewhere,” Greg says. “It’s pretty hard not to have that on your list if you’re a hockey player in Canada.”
While chasing big dreams means high-speed lives on the road, the Krebs family remains close and connected. They log a lot of FaceTime hours, important to Greg and Cindy so they can better understand how their kids are feeling.
The family Snapchat group is also active, Greg says with a laugh, adding that it’s the six Krebs plus one: Dylan Holloway, a teammate of Peyton’s with Canada’s National Junior Team who billeted with the family during his time with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“We send family Snapchats to each other [and] we chirp each other all the time,” Greg says. “Dylan got some good chirps about how messy his selection camp hotel room was.”
When musical guests like The Arkells joined Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp via Zoom during the 14-day quarantine, it was Facetime that Peyton used to make sure his sister could take in the music, too.
Including his big sister in these cool moments wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Maddison’s new single, ‘Younger Brothers’ (still unreleased but available on YouTube) references the boys waiting for her to get home from school so they could play. In true hockey-sister fashion, she took her turn in net.
“The boys would try to get me to come down to the basement and play goalie,” she says. “I’m not really clueing in to what that entailed… no equipment at all and they start slap-shotting. Well, that game went really quick and I was crying up the stairs.”
It’s the laughter, not the tears, that’s oh-so-familiar to the Krebs household, though.
“We’re all goofballs and it’s usually a lot of laughing at our house and keeping it light,” Maddison says. “If you’re at our house, you’re definitely going to see the dance floor heating up, the music is on in the kitchen and somebody’s pulling out some moves.”
That scene might paint a contrast to the unassuming, quiet confidence Peyton exemplifies on the ice. But Greg says Peyton, Dakota and Dru were enrolled in hip-hop classes at one point. “If you get the music going, Peyton is quite the dancer,” he laughs, knowing he’s said too much.
“It’s interesting because I see the boys [at the rink] and they’re very focused, which in that space is totally appropriate,” Maddison adds, “but once they get home, they’re very care-free and having fun with all of us.”
The Krebs family certainly lived up to its ‘Don’t be boring’ mantra in its pre-game rally video ahead of Canada’s preliminary-round game against Slovakia on Dec. 27.
In a house of infinite support and one-in-a-million dreams, it goes without saying the close-knit group draws on one another. Peyton and his brothers look up to Maddison’s drive and her work ethic, pulling from her persistence in the tough music world.
For a proud big sister, it’s discipline she learns from her hockey-playing brothers.
“I think that’s part of being a hockey player; you have to be disciplined, you have to do all the behind-the-scenes things, the preparation that people don’t see… all the hours they put into working out, waking up every morning, eating a great meal and practicing, consistently working at their craft.”
She admires and points to Peyton and the preparation he has put into the World Juniors.
“They are always pushing me to carpe diem, seize the day, do all that you can to prepare for the big moments. For Peyton, all the work that went in will reflect and now he can just enjoy his experience. It’s really cool to see.”
Musical talent and athletic prowess make for a well-rounded household. While Maddison laughs at her athletic ability, Peyton is quick to insist she’s no pushover on the ice. “She can still skate really well,” he says. “Last Christmas she threw on the jets and was wheeling around. She’s got a natural ability, for sure.”
Another listen to ‘Younger Brothers’ reflects the siblings’ special bond and the moments that forged it:
Backyard ice and hockey skates
First snowfall and rosy cheeks
Round and round and round in figure 8s
Then the world slowed down
Nothing else matters now
Thank God for my mother
Thank God for my father
For giving this older sister
While Peyton works towards a gold medal with Team Canada before lacing up for his rookie NHL season with the Vegas Golden Knights, his sister is working to put the finishing touches on her record for release this year.
“Being an older sister is the best,” Maddison says. “I love hanging out with my brothers and I love cheering them on. I really hope by the spring people can start seeing one another again and people can be in the stands and all the things, crossing our fingers.”