PITTSBURGH -- A comment made after Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final by Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban didn't just inflame his rivalry with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. It also resulted in an unexpected product partnership with Listerine mouthwash.
Immediately following Nashville's 5-1 win against Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, Subban told broadcaster Pierre Maguire that Crosby had commented on his breath.
"He told me my breath smelled, but I don't know," Subban said. "I used Listerine before the game."
Subban's revelation got the attention of the company behind the popular mouthwash, which delivered several bottles of its cool mint antiseptic to the Predators' arena before Game 4, which Nashville won to even the series at two. The gesture was a show of appreciation from a company that was thrilled to hear of the NHL All-Star's appreciation for its product.
"Watching fresh breath become a rallying cry for the fans has been incredible. We had our eyes on the conversation and saw one major theme. The fans wanted us to make this official," Listerine's senior marketing director, Larry Page, said in an email. "Shortly after Game 4, we connected with P.K.'s team to discuss how we could partner together."
That partnership became official Wednesday when Subban tweeted a photo of a Listerine bottle with the hashtag #Sponsored.
"We partnered with P.K. to post a tweet showing fans a behind-the-scenes look at his game prep from Pittsburgh," Page said. "We wish him much luck in Game 5 this evening."
Listerine, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, refused to comment publicly about any negotiations toward a long-term exclusive endorsement with Subban. The popular mouthwash brand has entered into previous sports partnerships, including ones with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Major League Soccer.
When asked about the exchange before Game 4, Crosby denied making any comments about Subban's breath, claiming the Predators defenseman "made that up." The entire back-and-forth has added an unusual layer of intrigue to a compelling series, to the delight of the mouthwash brand.
"We have a lot of hockey fans in our company, so we were excited to see a player like P.K., who is known for being a bold guy on and off the ice, is a fan of our product," Page said. "The overall response to this story has been tremendous. We've seen fans develop really creative social graphics and make their own Listerine signs to bring into the games. It has been exciting to see this story unfold, driven by Nashville's love for P.K. and the sport."