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Locked-out NHL players given escrow cheques before missing another pay period

New York Rangers' Brad Richards (19) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with Derek Stepan (21) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in New York on March 11, 2012. Locked-out NHL players had the pain of missing their first full pay period offset Tuesday when they received last season's escrow cheque. New York Rangers forward Brad Richards grossed approximately $960,000 after being the league's highest-paid player last season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Kathy Kmonicek

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New York Rangers' Brad Richards (19) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with Derek Stepan (21) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in New York on March 11, 2012. Locked-out NHL players had the pain of missing their first full pay period offset Tuesday when they received last season's escrow cheque. New York Rangers forward Brad Richards grossed approximately $960,000 after being the league's highest-paid player last season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Kathy Kmonicek

TORONTO - Locked-out NHL players had the pain of missing their first full pay period offset Tuesday when they received last season's escrow cheque.

Players were returned 7.98 per cent of what they earned last year, plus interest, one day before their second paycheque of the 2012-13 season would have been due, according to a spokesman for the NHL Players' Association

The escrow payments amount to about $80,000 for every million dollars a player earned—before deductions. For example, New York Rangers forward Brad Richards grossed approximately $960,000 after being the league's highest-paid player last season.

Under the terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement, NHL players had a portion of their salaries deducted throughout the season and placed into an escrow account. Once the final accounting for a year was completed, which ensured the correct percentage of revenue was paid out in salaries, players were refunded accordingly.

Tuesday's escrow payment came at an important time with the lockout set to eliminate another pay cycle. Players also missed a cheque on Oct. 15, but that would only have covered four days of work. The paycheque they were to have been given Wednesday would have been for a full half-month period.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr met with a group of players in Minnesota on Monday night and acknowledged in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that some of his constituents are concerned about lost wages that are mounting during the lockout.

"But that doesn't mean you make a bad agreement because of it," Fehr told the newspaper.

The NHL's labour talks have been on hold since Oct. 18, when the NHLPA countered a league offer with three proposals of its own. Each of those was quickly rejected.

Since then, a league-imposed deadline to play a full season passed without further talks and the NHL cancelled all games through Nov. 30. The Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoor game is expected to be wiped off the schedule later this week.

Superstorm Sandy forced the NHL to close its New York headquarters on Monday and Tuesday, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated that it didn't affect the bargaining process. However, he added in an email that there was no progress to report on the labour front.

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