Hank Ciesla is a name that was always kind of familiar to me. It was a picture of Hank’s rookie card that was used to illustrate the 1958-59 Topps set in the first hockey price guides put out by Cartophilium (a Quebec mail-order dealer) in about 1980-81. When I first got my hands on ’58-59 cards in the mid-80s, Hank’s card was high on my want list.
Hank was a highly-touted junior, a big player with good hands who was much admired by a couple NHL teams. The Hawks managed to sign him and he broke in with them in 1955. He had a credible rookie season with 31 points but never turned into the physical presence the Hawks hoped for. He slipped to 18 points the following year and was dealt to the Rangers. He played a limited role with the Rangers the next two seasons and didn’t get on that well with his coach. At the age of just 24, he was sent off to the Toronto, his third team.
Hank didn’t get the chance to play for the Leafs. He was hurt, missed the chance to be called up and, as often happened in the old six-team league, became a minor league fixture. He played well, though, scoring 27 and 30 goals for Rochester the next two seasons. With the Cleveland Barons in 1962-63, he put up 42 goals and 98 points and this was enough to get him claimed by Detroit in the Inter-League draft. He must have been projected to make the Red Wings team, because Parkhurst made a card of him wearing the Winged Wheel for 1963-64, the last set they would ever make.
For whatever reason, it didn’t happen for Hank in Detroit. He spent the ’63-64 season in the minors again and his point totals fell off dramatically (disappointment, maybe? I have no idea). After 1964-65, he retired and went into business. He passed away from stomach cancer at only 39 years of age in 1976.
I finally picked up Hank’s ’63-64 Parkhurst card. It’s one that always struck me as a bit odd-looking, but I never thought much about it. Hank’s gaze is somewhere other than at the photographer. He looks like he’s laughing at someone or something off to the side. The lighting around his neck is kind of strange, as though he’s wearing a turtleneck that isn’t really there.
When I finally held it in my hand, I saw the giveaway.
That white blotch is a hastily/poorly-removed letter ‘A’. While Parkhurst had tried their hand at airbrushing players into proper uniforms in earlier years, this time they’d done a head swap, and the person they borrowed the body from wore a letter. This should make it easy to figure out whose body was being used. The only question was whether it was a current Wing or a former one. As it turns out, it was easy. Card 46 in the set (5 away from Ciesla at 51) is longtime Wing Marcel Pronovost. He’s the only ‘A’ in the set.
To their credit (?), Parkhurst did try to disguise their work a little bit. They played with the tones a little bit and added an exaggerated shoulder pad lump on the right shoulder (left side of the picture). They’ve darkened the skin around the neck. Had they blended the lighting on the head just a bit or done even a basic job of hiding the ‘A’, it would have been unnoticeable. They avoided the common OPC problem of choosing a body the wrong size or position for the head. That ‘A’, though, exposes this card as another Body Snatcher.
There may be other Parkhursts with this trait, but this is the only one I’ve ever noticed.