As Rebecca Thomson watched the on-ice celebration following the Lightning’s win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final from her home in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, the 22-year-old artist focused on the emotion on the faces of captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman.
When Hedman lifted the Cup over his head, she knew that was the precise moment she wanted to capture.
Thomson made a rough sketch of Hedman skating with the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy, then filled in the details of his face, paying special attention to his eyes.
“It’s just that one little bit can make it look wrong,” Thomson said. “After that, it’s just where it feels right. Once you get those main features, then you can get a sense of if it’s going well.”
Twenty-three hours later, she had captured the moment for posterity with a detailed colored pencil sketch.
Thomson has been an artist since she could hold a pencil. She estimates that she’s sketched more than 100 portraits over the past seven years, though she’s never had full confidence in her work.
But a direct message a couple of days after the Lightning clinched the Cup changed everything. The team complimented her sketches and told her Hedman had asked to purchase her original portrait.
Thomson said she’s never had a player make such a request. She was flattered and didn’t have to give it much thought. She knew the portrait belonged with Hedman.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Thomson said. “I said, ‘I’d love for Victor to have it. If there’s anyone I’d like it have it, it’s him.’”
Hedman wasn’t Thomson’s first Stanley Cup portrait.
After completing Hedman’s portrait, Thomson posted a photo of it on Twitter, along with a video of her sketching process.
She figured her Twitter followers would like it, as they seemed to enjoy the other portraits she had shared over the years. But a day after posting the Hedman photo, she started to receive attention from the NHL, Sportsnet and Tampa Bay Lightning accounts, too.
When a preview of a direct message popped up on the screen of her iPhone 11, she couldn’t unlock her phone fast enough.
“I just never expected it to say that Victor loves it and he’d like to buy it if that’s okay,” Thomson said. “You do them out of the love of the game, really, and for him to want to buy it is insane.”
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She created a copy of the portrait to send along with the framed original to the United States, making sure it was wrapped safely with an excess of bubble wrap for its trip across the pond.
A few days later, the Lightning messaged her a photo of Hedman with the sketch. Thomson was blown away.
“It almost never feels real, even though it’s happening,” she said. “When you actually see that photo of him holding it, you really get a sense that he really loved my drawing.”
When the Lightning returned the print signed by Hedman, the package included some extra goodies, too. Hedman signed and personalized a blue No. 77 jersey for Thomson, and it arrived in a reusable Hedman bag from the team store.
Thomson’s interest in hockey began when she was 12 years old, passed down from her granddad, Andrew Fleming, an ardent fan for more than 40 years. Thomson became a fan of the Fife Flyers, the oldest professional hockey team in the United Kingdom, and has cheered for them ever since.
Appropriately, her first experience at a hockey game was a Lightning game in Tampa when she was 7 years old while on vacation with her family in Florida.
“I’ve wanted to draw a Lightning player for awhile, especially because I know it’s my first game ever,” Thomson said. “And then they won the Cup, so it was very fitting.”
While art always has been a hobby for Thomson, she’s now trying to turn it into more of a personal business.
Thomson, who graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (part of the University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland) in May, runs her own Etsy store, where she sells prints of some of her work, including the sketch of Hedman.
Some of her illustrations have been featured in the NHL’s personalized children’s book, “A Fan For Life”.
In addition to her Stanley Cup portraits, some of her favorite sketches over the years have featured hockey players Henrik Lundqvist and John Tavares, soccer player Marcus Rashford, tennis player Andy Murray and golfers Shane Lowry and Tiger Woods.
But no matter what Thomson’s working on, she’s happy as long as she’s creating something meaningful.
“I just love making things,” she said.
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