WINNIPEG -- Ringette Manitoba is now closer to returning to the ice, though it will still be a while before games can be played.

The organization announced on Wednesday it had received approval from the Manitoba government to proceed with the third phase of its return to play plan, allowing some on-ice activities to begin starting September 1.

"I feel really confident that we've come up with a plan to allow our participants to come back in a safe, progressive manner," said Lainie Wintrup, executive director of Ringette Manitoba.

Ringette in Manitoba stopped in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions have been underway since to develop a return to play.

"There was a lot of collaboration across different provincial sports organizations in Manitoba, significant dialogue with provincial ringette organizations, our colleagues across the country, and Ringette Canada," said Wintrup, who added they also liaised with the City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba government.

Under the new phase, ringette teams will be able to hold on-ice practices and skill development, but checking is not allowed. Teams will have to respect the public health orders which are in effect. Limited travel in each team's region is also approved, but no carpooling is allowed.

Players are being told to not share water bottles and to not show up to practice if they're feeling ill.

"Our first initial 30 days is to allow athletes to return to the ice safely," said Wintrup. "They haven't been on the ice since early or mid-March, so we want to make sure they're coming back in an environment that allows them to get moving again.

"We do have to physically distance on the ice, we still have to maintain that six feet/two metres. We have been working collaboratively with our member associations to assist them to work with their local facilities to ensure that they have got the tools in place to come through and to get on the ice."

But, when it comes to games, and tournaments it will still be a long time before that happens. The proposed next phase of the plan would see some games involving pods and squads of players, modified gameplay, and some limited travel. The final phase would bring back the ringette regular season, tournaments, provincial travel and events where new players can come try the sport for the first time.

Wintrup said all future phases will need to be approved by the province before they can be implemented.

"We will adhere to the department of health regulations as they put them forward," she said, saying the health and well-being of the athletes, parents, and coaches is at the forefront.