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Couple celebrates in 'suite' style Sabres offer luxury box to family wishing to honor parents' 60th anniversary

Since 1970, Edith and LZ Taplin have watched just about every televised Sabres game from the comfort of their favorite chairs at home.

The two cheered for their team Saturday night, too, but this time from plush seats in a luxury box in HSBC Arena.

What better way to celebrate 60 years of marriage?

At 79, Mrs. Taplin still marvels at the sport.

Asked why she watches Sabres games, she replied, "I just love to see them skate on the ice. I've been watching them since they started playing."

"I like the breakaways," added LZ Taplin, 81.

The Taplins' children, in a conference call a couple of months ago, decided a Sabres game would be the best way to celebrate their parents' anniversary.

"We said hockey game right off the bat," said daughter LaMoyne Taplin, 53, of Buffalo. "My mother is the one who introduced us to hockey."

"I don't think my mom misses a game on TV," said Cline Taplin, 56, of Dallas, her son. "When I call and ask how they're doing, my father always says, 'We're in our favorite chairs watching the game.' "

Daughter-in-law Cheryl Taplin recalls meeting the two for the first time 14 years ago, when her future husband, Glenn, brought her to his home to introduce her.

The Taplins were watching the Sabres. And they talked to her -- while watching the game.

"So I sat with them watching the Sabres," she said.

It was a sport she had never before paid much attention to, and even the Taplins' own children played and excelled in other sports, such as football and basketball.

"But after that, I figured I had better get into it," she said.

A big problem almost scuttled the anniversary plan.

Finding tickets to sold-out hockey games this season has ruined the plans of many families wanting to take in a game.

But the Taplins' enduring loyalty made an impression on two important men: Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano and managing partner Larry Quinn.

After that conference call, Cline Taplin called Golisano's secretary, who put him through to the owner's voicemail.

He explained how his mother, a black woman, had rooted for the Sabres for more than three decades and asked for help in finding a way for the entire family to sit together at a Sabres game the day after their anniversary.

Quinn called back 20 minutes later.

He offered the tight-knit family use of his luxury suite for the game.

So the surprise was on. Earlier Saturday, Cline told his parents he was taking them to the Sabres game against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- but he didn't let on about the suite or the entire family joining them until he ushered them into the box 20 minutes before the opening faceoff. They were all present: sons Cline, Dwayne and Glenn, daughter LaMoyne, five grandchildren, a great-grandchild and two daughters-in-law.

Mrs. Taplin started crying when she walked into the luxury box.

The family was a source of great joy for the two elderly hockey fans -- and seeing Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell and the other Sabres up close was also a thrill. The Taplins have attended a handful of games over the years, but none recently, especially since her quintuple bypass surgery.

"This is so nice," said LZ Taplin, who wore a Drury jersey. "We knew we were coming but didn't expect any of this."

While other family members chatted in the back of the luxury box, Mr. and Mrs. Taplin stayed in their seats and intently watched the game, which the Sabres lost, 3-2.

"We really are in the family entertainment business. And when you get a chance to do something like this, it just makes the job fun," Quinn said.

Quinn stopped by the suite before the game to give the couple signed Chris Drury and Daniel Briere jerseys.

The team's gesture also demonstrated its desire to reach out to more diverse audiences, beyond the predominantly white, heavily suburban fan base.

"We want our sport to appeal to everybody," Quinn said.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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