(CNN) -- The U.S. hockey team is burning up at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, thanks in part to Phil Kessel's incredible hat trick in Sunday's game against Slovenia. The United States won handily, and Kessel became the first U.S. player to pull off a hat trick at the Olympics in more than a decade.
Kessel's a star, at home and in these games, because of his moves on the ice. But the Toronto Maple Leafs forward won what may be the biggest victory of his life in a very different kind of arena.
In 2006, when Kessel was a 19-year-old rookie for the Boston Bruins with a promising career before him, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent surgery, and successfully recovered. He admits he was lucky -- the cancer was caught early and treated promptly -- but he hasn't let his medical success erase the memory of his experience.
"You become more of a spokesperson with stuff like this," Kessel told the Ottawa Citizen in 2007. "I had to deal with stuff that a lot of people had to deal with. If you're not feeling well, go get checked out and make sure you're all right."
After his recovery, he returned to the ice full-force, and over the years earned the reputation of an unassuming, classy guy who kept his eye on the game, not on the fame. In 2013, Kessel invited 24 kids from Childhood Cancer Canada to a luxury suite to watch the Leafs take on the Anaheim Ducks.
Oh, and he scored a hat trick in that game, too.
Kessel's Olympic journey has also been something of a family affair -- his sister, Amanda Kessel, is a hockey player, too. She skates for the U.S. women's hockey team in Sochi. After a decisive victory over Sweden, the USA women's team appears to have as good a shot at gold as the men do.
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