The 1997 Stanley Cup Finals determined the winner of the Stanley Cup and the champion of the National Hockey League (NHL) for the 1996–97 NHL season. The Stanley Cup winners were the Detroit Red Wings, who swept the Philadelphia Flyers in four games and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years. Detroit is also the last team to win the Cup without having home ice advantage in the Finals.
Detroit was the dark-horse in the Western Conference, the third-seed behind Dallas and Colorado. The Red Wings made their second trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in three years by besting the Avalanche in an often brutal six-game Western Conference Finals. Despite winning 62 games the year before, Detroit won only 38 in 1996–97 but got tougher with the addition of Brendan Shanahan and the departure of several players whom head coach Scotty Bowman blamed for their loss to Colorado a year prior. The Wings dispatched a fractured St. Louis Blues team and a surprising Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to reach the conference finals for the third straight season.
The teams had never faced each other in the playoffs prior to the season; even in the early days of expansion beyond the Original Six, the clubs never made the postseason when the NHL employed its cross-over format between East and West divisions. Nor had they met in the two year experiment to rank NHL playoff teams 1 through 16 in 1980 and 1981.
Detroit was looking for its first Cup win since 1955, and to avenge the shocking four-game sweep to New Jersey in 1995. Philadelphia was trying to win its first Cup since 1975 in its first Finals appearance in 10 years.
In his post-game comments, Flyers head coach Terry Murray was quoted as saying the team was "basically in a choking situation," which many writers, broadcasters, fans as well as Flyers management took to mean Murray called out his own players as chokers. The manner in which they played compounded by the insurmountable series deficit along with the Wings' seeming dominance in stretches of the first two games as well as most of game three lent credence to the claim. However, with a decade in between, it is more likely Murray equated the 3–0 series hole as being stuck in a room without oxygen where it's hard to breathe, rather than an explicit implication of his players. Sergei Fedorov scored the winner and posted a 4-point night. He was named the games' first star.
Sergei Fedorov led the Wings in playoff scoring with 20 points. Detroit goaltender Mike Vernon, who had been in net for the whole of the Wings' aborted 1995 playoff run, and relegated to the bench the year before, earned vindication and his first Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP by holding Philadelphia to six goals in four games.